GILLETTE, Wyo. — Short Elliott Hendrickson, or SEH, architect Alex Jauch said Jan. 24 in a parking lot conversation after the school board meeting that he anticipates construction of Campbell County School District’s new aquatic center will begin around April.
Jauch, who’s managing the design team and helping Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds Sean Mathes with the construction side, said in a team presentation to the school board earlier that evening that before construction begins, the team is working to improve the site, which lies east of the splash park at Gillette’s Energy Capital Sports Complex. The complex is at 3400 Garner Lake Road.
Mathes said that before the district entered a lease agreement with the City of Gillette, the team asked geotechnical engineers to survey and test the soils to make sure it was suitable for the construction of the replacement aquatic center.
Throughout the site, the team will install “a ton” of wick drains, which are supposed to force expansive soils to dry much more quickly than they otherwise would, he said. The goal is to consolidate the soils on the existing site within several months. They will also bring in new, structural-grade type soils. The design team wants to remove the project as much as possible from any potential groundwater.
“The deep end of the swimming pools is about the only portion that’s still within ground level,” he said.
He said the project’s structural engineers have completed hundreds of pools across the nation and they’ve designed the pool structure itself, as well as the building, to handle any buoyancy factors. The new foundation system and slab are another four feet above existing grades. Low mobility grouted columns will go from bedrock to the surface, and these are reinforced with steel.
Inberg-Miller Engineers Vice President/Senior Geotechnical Engineer Glen Bobnick said the team found that the upper 4 or 5 feet is a kind of sandy clay. Below that, the soil is very soft and compressible until bedrock, which is about 30 feet below the surface. From about 10 feet to 30 feet underground, there’s groundwater.
Board member Dr. Tim Hallinan asked the group whether they accept the liability if their proposal doesn’t work.
Jauch said the team has reviewed all the documents together and accepted the design.
“We haven’t arrived at this solution without a lot of smart brains, smarter than an architect here and there,” he said. “These are all tried and true methods.”
He said the method they’re using is very suitable for the soils and the project, and they’ve studied previous reports done on the adjacent sites. Outside third parties have also reviewed the project, Jauch said.
“I think we feel pretty confident in what’s proposed,” he said.
Ochs said she believes concerns about the building are unusual.
“I can think of a lot of buildings that we built in Campbell County — I was on the Wyoming Center board when we built the Wyoming Center and going through soils discussions and different things — and I don’t know that we have ever had these types of concerns brought up before,” Ochs said.
The district in November unanimously approved the sole bid it received for the construction of the center. That bid, from Van Ewing Construction, originally was $41.94 million. With changes from an alternate pool company, alternate electrical bid, roofing material and insulation material, Van Ewing reduced its bid to $38,430,360.
The school board approved that roughly $38.4 million bid. Construction of the new center will take about 18 to 24 months.
Dr. Tim Hallinan voted Dec. 13 against ratifying the aquatic center in his first school board meeting as a trustee. The other six board members voted in favor of ratifying it.
Bob Jordan and Jerry Means, who each ran for school board in the November election and applied in January for the open school board seat, have asked questions and made comments about the plans for the aquatic center at multiple board meetings.
“If the hydraulics hold, I’ll be pretty excited,” Jordan said in the meeting that the project team held after the Jan. 24 board meeting so that the public had more time to ask questions. “I’ll tell you in about 10 years.”
The facility replaces the district’s aging aquatic center, which is at 800 E. Warlow Drive., Gillette.