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Zoo’s bison exhibit back on track
City crews to handle some of the work, cutting project cost
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With estimated costs higher than anticipated for the bison exhibit project at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo, a modified plan was a OKed by the City Council Monday night.

The bison at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo will still get their new home, but the costly project will be handled in part by city personnel.

The Great Bend City Council Monday night approved contracting with Eby Construction of Wichita for $443,820 for the construction/renovation of the bison exhibit at the western edge of Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. 

In August 2017, the city contracted with Eby to build and renovate both the grizzly bear and a bison exhibit at zoo.

The bear exhibit was completed in 2018 and came in under budget. “However, the bison exhibit had been put on hold as construction estimates were higher than expected,” City Administrator Kendal Francis said. 

So. city staff has been working with Eby to “value engineer” the project, he said. 

“In value engineering the project, it was determined that there are areas in which the city would be capable of performing the work at a significant savings,” Francis said. These include building, plumbing and electrical, and putting in an access road and hydraulic shift for the bison.

This will be a shared load between the Public Lands and Public Works departments, he said. As such, and due to the work being spread out over several months, it won’t intefer with other city projects.

“As we already had a contract with Eby, the most efficient way to move forward was to utilize a change order for the change in scope and price,” Francis said.

The guaranteed maximum price (GMP) for the bison exhibit renovation is $443,820. 

The city currently has $260,740.41 set back for the bison exhibit which is leftover from the bear display and donations from the Dorothy M. Morrison Foundation. 

The Dorothy M. Morrison Foundation was a significant financial contributor to this project, he said. “They are very passionate about this. They want to see it to fruition.”

As a result, they are donating the needed balance of $183,079.79 to complete the project. 

Councilman Chad Somers asked if it didn’t make more sense to just rebid the project. But, Francis said Eby has already been on site and has done work in the past, so it was more practical to keep them for the revised effort. 

The new exhibit will reconfigure the current space with new fencing and add a shed that incorporates hay storage, a holding area, and shelter. In addition, the animals will require a squeeze chute, a stock tank, and a concrete floor for the shed. 

The space will be aesthetically enhanced with sidewalks, landscaping, and educational and informative signage.

Most importantly, the zoo will provide staff trained to care for the specific needs of bison and staff trained to provide educational opportunities for the public through talks, tours, literature etc. The exhibit will be Association of Zoos and Aquariums compliant. 

Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance:

Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:

• Approved contracting with Eby Construction of Wichita for $443,820 for the construction/renovation of the bison exhibit at Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo.

• Approved a bid from ACM Removal-Kansas LLC. for $16,820 for asbestos removal at Crest Theater.

• Approved the low bid from Glassman Corporation of Hays for $572,700 to handle the HVAC improvements in the Crest Theater.

• Approved an agreement with Unified School District 428 to share the costs of school crossing guards and employ them through the district. Historically, guards have been recruited, hired and paid by the city. 

• Approved a fireworks displays at Bat Cats home games, requested by Roger Ward. He asked the displays be approved for two different dates, May 31 and June 29, alternate dates would be June 4 and 30. They will be set off by Mitch Menges who is qualified and has sufficient insurance, City Attorney Robert Suelter said.

• Granted permissions for the annual Cinco de Mayo to take place in Jack Kilby Square May 4. These included a $250 sponsorship and the closing of Main Street from 19th to Lakin from 11 a.m.  

• Heard remarks from Bob Felt who asked to speak to the council about memorial at the zoo for Bill J. McKown.

• Approved reducing the rent at the Front Door facility for the Great Bend Children’s Learning Center from $300 per month to $50 for one year. This was done since the center receives funds from the United Way of Central Kansas which fell short of its goal for the 2019 campaign. 

This meant the center saw a cut of $6,000 in United Way money.

• Heard a report from Community Coordinator Christina Hayes. She focused on the upcoming Summer Street Stroll and movie nights, the annual Art and Wine Walk, Memorial Day flowers at the Great Bend Cemetery, June Jaunt and the Forth of July Fireworks display.

• Approved an abatement at 811 Madison, accumulation of trash/refuse, owned by Carmen Grauerholz.