Routt County Commissioners fast-track emergency power supply for law enforcement building |

Routt County commissioners fast-track emergency power supply for law enforcement building

Construction crews began work on the Combined Law Enforcement Facility at U.S.Highway 40 and Shield Drive. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to wave the formal purchasing process for a backup power supply for the new combined police and sheriff’s building.

Commissioners unanimously approved a $42,732 uninterruptible power supply for Routt County emergency dispatch, which is almost double what the county originally budgeted.

In the event of a power outage, which can be frequent in the area, the power supply — essentially a collection of batteries — would maintain critical communication systems that allow law enforcement to hear about and respond to emergencies.

Commissioners will use funds from the building and plant department to pay for the project, which will likely require a supplemental budget in the future.

This fast-tracked approval comes after complications with the design process delayed the project. Julie Kennedy, the county’s purchasing agent, told the commissioners they had no time to waste in approving it in order to transition communication services to the new building by its estimated completion in July.

“We need to get all the parts ordered to make the move at the same time that we’re moving into the combined law enforcement building,” she explained after the meeting.

In 2017, county officials budgeted $22,000 for the project based on the cost of the existing power supply at the current Routt County Communications Center, which will soon move to the combined law enforcement building, along with the Routt County Sheriff’s Office and Steamboat Springs Police Department.

Kennedy said the 25,908-square-foot law enforcement facility currently under construction will house more electronics like computers and telephones, which require additional wattage to power.

The recently approved power supply would double the existing capacity to account for that increase.

In the event of an outage, a generator in the Communications Center provides backup power to emergency dispatch services. However, it takes time for the generator to kick in, during which critical communication needs would not be operational.

Jason Nettles, the county’s emergency communications manager, explained the uninterruptible power supply, as its name suggests, provides electricity until the generator kicks in to prevent that gap in services.

It would also protect the building’s electrical equipment, which Nettles valued at around $2 million, from damage caused by power surges.

He added outages happen rather frequently in the area, especially during harsh winter blizzards or lightning storms in the summer.

Such an outage occurred during a storm several weekends ago, he said, which knocked down power for several hours. The generator eventually kicked in, and the existing power supply fueled communication systems until then.

Engineers from Challenge Technology, Inc., the company constructing the new power supply, presented a design of the power supply in December 2018 that would cost more than $100,000, according to Kennedy.

“It was way more than we were expecting or needing,” she said of the original design.

It took several months for county officials, and the company’s engineers to pare down the project to fit the needs of the new building. The design was finalized March 8.

Commissioner Tim Corrigan expressed some frustration over how long it took to present the design to the board.

“It felt like it took far longer than it should have,” he said during the meeting.

He added that waiving the formal purchasing process, which would include bidding the project to other companies, represents a unique situation. However, he justified the waiver because it provides a smooth transition to the new building.

“It is what it is,” he said. “It’s a timing issue.”

Nettles explained finalizing the design was no simple matter. Those involved had to ensure the uninterrupted power supply would be large enough to maintain critical services for an extended period while keeping the cost down.

“I want to have enough run time, so that, if the generator for some reason doesn’t start, we’re protected,” Nettles said.

The approved power supply would offer about 78 minutes of backup electricity in the event of such a delay, according to Nettles.

Commissioner Doug Monger echoed Corrigan’s frustrations but sees the power supply as an essential component to ensure public safety.

“Hopefully, we get a good product out of it,” he said.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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