Cowlitz County Administration

A combination of aging equipment and a contract with an “inexperienced” company had the cost of Cowlitz County’s elevator repairs on the rise, but officials said Tuesday a new contractor and major upgrade should solve the problems.

Elevators in the County Administration Building and Hall of Justice were shut down multiple times over the past couple years for unscheduled repairs, creating challenges for customers and forcing public meetings to be postponed or moved. Repairs and maintenance for elevators in both buildings cost about $24,160 in 2018.

The administration building’s elevator relies on outdated equipment and a non-computerized operating system, Facilities Services Manager Don Nyman said. This makes outages difficult to deal with and replacement parts hard to find, he said.

“If you have to go on eBay to find parts, it’s not a good thing,” said Matt Hanson, county purchasing manager.

George Elevator Service of Vancouver had a contract with the county for about a year and a half to maintain and repair the elevators, Hanson said. The company did not have the experience or qualifications to efficiently take care of the older machines, but the county contracted with them because of state requirements to choose the lowest bidder, he said.

The county broke off the contract and now contracts with ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corp. of Portland, which is a “much better company,” Hanson said. The year-long contract for regular monthly maintenance for the county’s elevators is about $22,000.

Nyman said the elevator in the Hall of Justice is more modern and now that the county is working with ThyssenKrupp, he doesn’t anticipate more unexpected outages.

ThyssenKrupp will also upgrade the elevator in the administration building. The $376,700-project includes updating the operating system, equipment, controls and the cab’s interior. Nyman said the work will make the elevator more energy efficient and dependable.

The elevator will be shut down from Feb. 19 to April 22. During that time, county commissioner meetings will be held in the Cowlitz County Historical Museum across Fourth Avenue from the Administration Building. Other public meetings regularly held on the second and third floors will also be relocated. A informational board and phone will be set up on the first floor so visitors unable to use the stairs can call up to second and third floor departments.

The project has been planned for years, but Hanson said management turnover and communication problems delayed the start. The bid process for large projects also takes time, he said. County Chief of Staff Axel Swanson said there hasn’t been anyone to advocate for the project to get done.

“When a project is in a common area there’s no one to champion it,” he said. “We have to come together and say this is impacting all of us and our customers.”

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