SIDNEY -- The Cheyenne County Board of Commissioners on January 3 awarded the bid for a new HVAC system at the county courthouse to Johnson Controls in Cheyenne, Wyo.

The decision followed numerous questions to the commissioners about the bid, only one bid submitted and transparency of the bid. David Jansen and Eric Pool asked to be on the agenda to discuss the HVAC system and the bidding process. Jansen said the cost of the bid submitted by Johnson Control, the only bid submitted for the job, is "completely out of line." 

"This is a tremendous amount of money," Jansen said.

He said American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds are designed to help communities. Contracting with a company outside of Cheyenne County does not support local businesses, according to Jansen. He said some contractors he has talked with offered to team together to complete the project.

Jansen said the bid follows none of the standard parameters of the bidding process. 

"What I'm saying, gentlemen, is let's slow down. Then the community can't complain," he said.

Eric Pool said he has extensive experience in project management and sees "red flags" in the bid. he cited the cost, $766,000, for the boiler and chiller for the courthouse and jail, "can't shut down the environment" for the building, and said the bid has no breakdowns or allowances for change orders.

"This is just a cause to pause," Jansen said.

Pool stressed he is not against the HVAC project.

"We know the lead tie is a concern. All we want is a little more time," he said.

The commissioners' meeting included Jonathan Hoesch, Senior Energy Consultant, Trane Technologies, attended the meeting via video conference. He said he first learned of the project through the newspaper, and then talked with County Clerk Beth Fiegenschuh about one and one-half months ago. They did not submit a bid for the project. 

Commissioner Randy Miller asked Hoesch how ARPA funds are being used, calling the description from the company "very vague.' Hoesch agreed with Miller's take on ARPA funds use.

Johnson Control attended the meeting with three representatives: service manager Mitch Wood, sales representative Chance Dixon and Marlyn Schultz of Gering. Wood said he wanted to address "misinformation" and the bid.

"Most of your equipment is 20 years or older, so we really need to look a replacing it," Wood said.

He said the county has spent about $35,000 in 2022 on repairs to the system, and estimated an additional $75,000 in the system that could go bad.

He said Johnson Control is proposing a condensing chiller, which is more efficient than the chiller currently in place at the courthouse. The current system use R22 refrigerant, which is no longer manufactured, according to Wood. Commissioner Phil Sanders said when the chiller went offline last summer, the county couldn't find any R22 coolant.

"We have a 20-year relationship with you all," Wood said.

Miller said the county is seeking bids now because the timing allows options in the project.

"One of the reasons we did the bidding now is we could do the project in phases," he said. 

Bidding early in the year allows the work to be done in phases, Miller said. The heating system can be addressed in the off-season, and the cooling system likewise.

The county's building superintendent Tom Payne said the project has been discussed in open session multiple times. He also contacted local and national companies, seven total. 

The commissioners were asked about reopening the bidding process. Miller said that would be unethical after Johnson Control submitted a bid on deadline. To table the decision would put the next meeting two days after the guarantee of the bid. Wood said the bid is guaranteed for 30 days: January 15.

The commissioners approved the bid from Johnson Control with a 3-0 vote.