After a lengthy discussion between city council and BNIM Architect Hans Nettleblad Monday night, whether the current design of the Big Well Museum will scrapped for another comes down to the next council meeting, August 2.  The council, meanwhile, invites public input.


   The latest hiccup to building a Big Well Museum arose in the midst of a nearly three-hour Greensburg City Council meeting Monday night.  Nearly an hour was devoted to a discussion of the matter featuring a give-and-take between BNIM Architect Hans Nettleblad and Council members over the latest revision to the design meant to bring costs into line with available funds.  The latest redesign became necessary when bids opened June 17 were all at least $398,000 over the $3 million target.

   With the assistance of four representatives of McCown Gordon Contractors, Nettleblad presented a Powerpoint illustration of the newest design that eliminates the covered entry ramp and geothermal heating/cooling system for a collective savings of $159,000, bringing the price tag down to $3.16 million.  Though not reaching the $3 million mark, City Administrator Steve Hewitt said that figure “would work” with the aid of $160,000 available in the Big Well’s capital outlay budget to make up the difference.

   In place of the covered entry ramp Nettleblad presented an uncovered ramp in the form of a 10-foot wide sidewalk descending to the subterranean entrance, flanked on either side by sloping berms. (See illustration)

   Reaction from council members was consistent in its lack of enthusiasm for the latest revision.

   Rex Butler commented, “There was a lot of consternation on this design before and now we’re changing the design a lot.  Our taxpayers are used to something a little more conventional and less expensive.”

   Erica Goodman told Nettleblad, “BNIM was hired to design a LEED Platinum structure for $2.5 million. (The loss of the geothermal system was estimated to knock the facility from Platinum to LEED Silver.)  Now we’ve lost so much from the original design.”

    When asked what would be entailed to redesign the structure to be above ground, Nettleblad answered, “We would’ve expected these kinds of questions six to eight months ago.  We’ve gone down this path (designing the bulk of the facility to be below ground, and circular in shape) with your approval.  Over the life of the building we know it won’t perform as well if it’s an above ground building.  You’ll spend more on energy and maintenance costs.”

   Asked about funding for the museum exhibit elements of the facility Nettleblad said, “We still have over $3 million in grant applications out for the exhibits.”
   “If those grants don’t come in at a certain point we’re going to have to find that money somewhere,” Goodman replied.

   Matt Christenson told the group, “I like the design but as costs go up we seem to have to make a lot of sacrifices in other areas.”  (One such “sacrifice” he referred to was previously having to give up the “green roof” on top, from which visitors would have been able to look down directly into the well.)

   Hewitt then addressed the council, telling them, “Is this the design you like?  That’s what you need to ask yourselves.  Is this what you want the Big Well to look like the next hundred years?  If so, I can work with these guys to make it affordable.  If not, now is the time to stop it.”

   He also addressed Butler directly, saying, “If you want public input on this Rex you might as well scrap this because we’ll lose our bid.  If you go for a new design you’ll spend another $300,000 to $400,000.”  Hewitt was referring to the bids, opened June 17, being good for only 45 days, meaning they would expire as of August 1.  The next scheduled council meeting is August 2.

   The McCown Gordon representatives, however, said they thought it likely they could persuade subcontractors to give an extension on their respective portions of the bid, allowing for public input on the matter to reach the council prior to the August 2 meeting, a point at which it’s likely the council will decide whether to go ahead with the latest revision, or opt for a new design.  While the architectural fee for the current design and its revisions—currently pegged at around $300,000—was paid for with USDA funding, any new design work would have to be covered by the City.  In addition to the added expense would be a likely delay of at least six months while the new drawings were developed.

   “In two more weeks (August 2) we can decide if we want to move forward with this design,” Hewitt told the council.

   “That should work,” Mayor Bob Dixson said.  “The council needs time to digest this.”

(The City, meanwhile, is soliciting comments from the public on the current design, to be submitted by July 30.  Comments can be mailed to Greensburg City Hall, 300 S Main, Greensburg, KS  67054, or