Crook County Museum District to go ahead with Old Stoney project despite funding shortage

By Sarah Pridgeon

The Crook County Museum District has opted to move ahead with refurbishment plans for Old Stoney despite project bids coming in half a million dollars above the grant funding available.

That figure has since been lowered through the penny-pinching efforts of the architect and low bidder and, to bridge the gap, says Museum Director Rocky Courchaine, the district will be launching new fundraising efforts.

“We were so close – and we are, this will happen. We can’t turn back, we have to move forward and we have raised money before, we can do it again,” he says.

“It was a stumble, we’re up on our feet again and moving forward.”

When the museum district first applied for a State Loans and Investments Board grant, backed by the City of Sundance, the $500,000 that had been built in for contingencies was removed before the funding was approved.

“That’s exactly what we were short in our bids,” says Clerk Treasurer Kathy Lenz, who is managing the grant on behalf of the City of Sundance.

“When that happened, the architect went to all of the bidders and asked: if we were to re-bid this, would you come in lower? They said no.”

Lyle Murtha of Stateline No. 7 Architects contacted the apparent low bidder and, together, they went through the project, line item by line item, looking for possible savings. This was done by whittling down costs in every possible area, from the type of sinks in the bathroom to the finish on the elevator, replacing what had originally been suggested with cheaper, but still quality, products.

“They still ended up having a gap. We don’t have an exact number on it yet, but it’s a little over $200,000,” Lenz says.

“We never thought this would happen at all. The landfill bids came in a million dollars lower, the water line was $650,000 lower – nobody thought that it would go more than what we were awarded at $2.2 million, but it did.”

This could be, she adds, because Old Stoney is a historic building and thus a specialty project, requiring both a specialty contractor and period-appropriate materials. Unfortunately, as the entity administering the grant, the funding gap posed a problem for the city.

“Before the city can award it, we have to have the funds secured,” Lenz says. “The Crook County Museum District is the owner of that building, so they were the ones who were going to have to secure the funds.”

Lenz, along with the architect, Steve Lenz of the Sundance Chamber of Commerce and Andy Miller from Sundance State Bank and the Sundance Main Street Steering Committee, met with the board of trustees for the Crook County Museum District.

“We told them that we were 95 percent there, but short this piece, and we asked them if they have the will to do a capital campaign,” she continues. Through this, the district would work with Sundance State Bank to obtain a loan, which would be paid back through fundraising.

“They voted yes, that they would do that,” Lenz says.

The district’s leap of faith will require new focus on its fundraising efforts, says Courchaine – something the board is now working to figure out.

“We’re waiting for answers from the architect and contractors, getting a final cost,” he says.

“There will be a fundraising program to finish phase one, which is what we’re working on. Phase one is three floors and phase two is the top floor.”

The grant itself was awarded to complete the phase one stage, which will open the building to the public with the museum on the main floor, office and rental space and storage in the basement. The top floor, including the auditorium, is not part of the current focus, Courchaine points out.

“This is not going to finish the project, it’s only going to finish phase one, so we will be hitting up people again to do phase two,” he says.

More details on the fundraising program are expected shortly, once the district has final answers about the amount still needed.