City and county leaders will soon weigh in on the hiring of an architectural firm to design a new $4.6 million science building for the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County campus.

The building has been part of the campus’ long-term plan, and would replace old science facilities that originally were constructed in 1968. Earlier this month, the UW-BSC Campus Commission voted unanimously to accept a proposal from Bray Associates Architects, Inc. to design the new building for $273,500.

Twelve companies submitted proposals, and three were invited to make presentations to the campus commission earlier this month.

The company that was unanimously selected by the campus commission, Bray Associates Architects, has designed facilities for other Wisconsin campuses, including new science buildings for UW-Marinette, UW-Sheboygan and Marian University, according to its proposal.

The other two top qualifiers were Strang, Inc. of Madison and Continuum Architects + Planners of Milwaukee.

Their proposals included cost estimates of $322,000 and $368,000, respectively.

During an appearance before the Sauk County Board on Tuesday, UW-BSC Dean Tom Pleger said he expects the design and siting of the facility to take place over the next six months. Construction then would begin with a 2015 opening date in mind.

Pleger said UW-BSC staff will work with designers to make sure the building meets needs into the future and provides applied research space.

“We want our faculty and staff to be using their expertise, their doctorates and advanced research degrees, with students to better our community,” Pleger said. “Some of them are doing applied research now but we don’t have the space really to expand on that to the degree that we want.”

The on-campus student population peaked in 2007, and has since hovered around 600 students. Pleger said he expects an uptick within the next two or three years. College officials say the campus is in desperate need of an updated, larger science facility.

“We’re operating at very close to capacity,” Pleger said of the campus as a whole.

Sauk County has budgeted $65,000 for the project in this year’s budget and its capital improvement plan includes another $65,000 next year and $2.2 million in 2015. However, it’s unclear if the county will borrow money to pay for the lion’s share of its portion.

“The Finance Committee has not made a determination on how the project will be funded; however there are multiple options,” said Sauk County Administrative Coordinator Kathy Schauf.

Because the campus is jointly owned by the city and county, both units of government must approve each piece of the $4.6 million project. They split all costs associated with the campus evenly, and each will be on the hook for $2.3 million of the science building.

The county’s and city’s finance committees may hold a joint meeting in August to discuss the architectural services contract and financing of the building project.

“So far, it looks as though the estimates for design fall within what we have budgeted,” said City Administrator Ed Geick, adding that the city has set aside $195,000 for the science building project in 2014 and 2015.

UW-BSC already has updated its parking lot and moved tennis courts as part of a long-term plan. And college officials continue to search for a private firm to construct and manage the campus’ first dormitory at no cost to local taxpayers.

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