Cost of construction has doubled for potential Silverthorne child care center
Smith Ranch Neighborhood is the proposed site of the building that could cost up to $10 million
While the town of Silverthorne and Summit County eagerly want to get a child care facility built near the Smith Ranch Neighborhood, estimated construction costs for the project have more than doubled since the discussions started.
The initial estimated budget for designing, engineering and constructing a new child care facility was $4 million, with plans for the county to contribute $3 million and Silverthorne to contribute $1 million. On top of the initial build, Silverthorne agreed to a yearly six-figure contribution to cover general costs of operation.
The latest budget for the project estimates costs now could total $8.5 million, which is $4.5 million over budget. Council member Kevin McDonald said at the Wednesday, Jan. 12, Silverthorne Town Council work session that these estimates don’t include dirt, meaning the total could grow closer to $10 million.
McDonald, who has been Silverthorne’s council representative on the committee overseeing the project, said he doesn’t think Silverthorne is in a place where it can afford to contribute $2 million or $3 million.
“This thing has gone up like a rocket, and it’s just hard to believe that it would take $10 million to build an 8,500-square-foot day care facility,” McDonald said. “I can’t sit here and make that recommendation to the council honestly. … This thing has really spiraled on us.”
Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said the original plan was to start building the facility in 2020, but like many projects, it was delayed due to the pandemic. The initial budget was outlined in 2019, and buildings costs have skyrocketed since the pandemic began.
Lawrence said the child care deficit is prominent across the county — especially on the north end toward Silverthorne — and that it remains a key priority for her.
“I can’t imagine that the cost would ever go back to that original amount. I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Lawrence said. “I’m committed to getting some additional child care. We know that we need it. It’s a desperate need in our community.”
Council member Mike Spry said at the Wednesday council meeting that he doesn’t think it’s reasonable to expect construction costs to get any cheaper but that finding a solution for child care can’t get pushed back, either.
“Whether it’s concrete cost going down, whether it’s lumber cost going down, the entire cost of a construction project is never going to get cheaper. At least I do not believe that’s the case,” Spry said. “… If we want to punt on this … we need to figure out another child care solution immediately, because there are other costs that we’re going to ultimately end up paying in our community if we don’t get this fixed.”
Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland said the town knew early on that this would be an expensive endeavor and hoped to find alternative funding options, through the state or federal government, but nothing of the sort has come through.
“We have been continuing to design, continuing to work with planners and move the process forward, but we cannot move forward any further without full commitment,” Hyland said at the meeting. “So unfortunately, none of those other resources came to fruition in the interim. … We’ll continue to pursue those along with the county, but there’s nothing there today that changes that equation.”
Hyland said the scope and design of the project, including square footage, hasn’t changed since they started the process, but the cost of construction has increased rapidly.
McDonald wondered if there could be other opportunities that don’t require building a facility from the ground up, which could potentially lead to cost savings, and council member Amy Manka was a fan of the idea.
“I really do think they need to start considering not a building necessarily from the ground up, but a building that’s in existence, and something they can move on right away because it’s something that’s really needed,” Manka said. “But it’s needed now. It was needed a year ago, and we can’t lose sight of that, and our community is really depending on getting some child care.”
The Summit Board of County Commissioners will discuss the project at its upcoming work session Tuesday, Jan. 18, when Lawrence said she hopes to leave with a go or no-go answer on the project. While the county has already committed $3 million from its Strong Future fund, she said she expects commissioners to look at the county’s general fund to see where else it could pull money to make this happen.
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