Underground parking buried
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
August 3, 2012
Cutting underground employee parking from the proposed START Bus headquarters would reduce phase one costs almost in half, saving millions of dollars.
The bus system’s board met Thursday for the first time since learning that START had failed to win federal money that could have paid millions of dollars of the cost of the project. The federal turndown led quickly to discussion of cheaper options for phase one of the project, which includes a bus barn and administration offices.
While the board will not recommend an alternate plan to town and county officials, members will probably recommend against underground parking, START Director Michael Wackerly said. The board will present the options at a joint meeting Monday.
With underground parking, phase one is estimated to cost $26.3 million. Alternate plans eliminate the below-grade parking and cost $11 million to $15 million.
START staff has already secured $8 million for the proposed headquarters.
Elected officials have set aside 4 acres for the headquarters off Snow King Avenue between Karns Meadow and the Virginian Lodge and RV Park. The town owns an adjacent 1.75-acre lot that could provide parking to replace the deleted underground spaces.
“If we’re not going to go below grade, we have to have a commitment we’re going to get that extra 1.75 acres,” board member George Erb said.
The price of obtaining the land, which is owned by the town but not by the county, is not included in the cost estimates. Wackerly said town and county officials have expressed interest in using the extra land for the headquarters.
Members also discussed other ways to fund the project, after being denied the two multimillion-dollar federal grants in late July.
START staff will continue to submit applications for a federal grant titled Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, but Wackerly was not optimistic.
“We’ve applied for four years in a row and haven’t gotten anything,” Wackerly said.
Wackerly did say $500,000 to $1 million for the project might be secured from money allotted to Wyoming through another federal grant.
While Board Chairman Matt Faupel previously asked town and county officials to consider including the headquarters on the specific purpose excise tax ballot, board members backed off the idea yesterday.
“I’m kind of hearing through the grapevine that it’s not going to be looked favorably on by the town and county,” Wackerly said.
Faupel said the money could bring the project closer, if councilors and commissioners would back the plan.
“We’re almost there — they could get us to the finish line,” he said.
Another idea is funding the project with bonds.
The board hopes elected officials will choose one of the options for phase one at the meeting Monday.
The master plan for the project calls for a bus barn, a maintenance building, a fueling station, administration offices, employee housing and a natural gas fueling station.
The meeting will take place at 2 p.m. in the Jackson Town Council chambers.