Warren County government is seeking to enlarge its budget for jail expansion, given a recent bid that was nearly $2 million more than expected.
The county Building and Grounds Committee met Thursday and approved a motion to borrow $9 million.
“I don’t want to be back here doing this again,” said Commissioner Carl E. Bouldin, who made the motion. “Do I want to borrow $9 million? No, I do not. The fact is we have to do something. If we don’t spend it all, that’s fine. We only have to pay back what we spend.”
Received were four bids for jail expansion which ranged between $8.3 million and $9 million. With an initial cost estimate of $6.5 million, the county’s prior resolution was to borrow $12.5 million. However, $6 million of that was allocated for two school projects.
Upland Design architect Allen Hill outlined the situation for the committee members.
“Unfortunately, the project did bid over the money,” Hill said. “The certified capacity was expected to be about 145 additional beds. We checked earlier today, there are 315 inmates in the jail now, 240 men and 75 women.”
The jail’s current capacity is 251 inmates.
Hill, as he did with the county Financial Management Committee last week, stated there are fixed costs associated with the jail expansion and those would remain unchanged regardless of how many beds are removed to reduce costs.
“If we remove half of the beds, the cost of the project will not be cut in half,” said Hill. “For example, we have to build a new control room area. There’s a certain cost to that whether we add one bed or 100 beds or 200 beds.”
Hillis described the project as “very bare bones” and not much can be cut due to it being only “bare concrete floor, painted concrete block walls, and a painted concrete ceiling.”
The $8.3 million bid, said Hill, is the best value for the county and he urged accepting that bid.
“Our recommendation would be to accept that bid, if at all possible. We understand it’s over budget, but we have some concerns that if the project is rebid the cost may go up. That would be one reason we recommend that bid be accepted. We understand that might not be possible in a short timeframe.”
The bid from Merit Construction is only good for 14 days, which ended Aug. 24. If the Warren County Commission approves the suggested $9 million and the company can’t hold its $8.3 bid due to increased expenses, the county will have to rebid.
Hill says that scenario could happen.
“We get mailings from trade organizations about cost estimating,” said Hill. “I got one today that was listing a 4 percent cost on subcontractor labor from June 1 to July 1. A 4 percent increase in 30 days. That’s a national average. I mention that to say we are seeing a tremendous inflation in construction cost in this timeframe. If you can find the money and they can’t honor their bid, we will have no option but to rebid.”
The measure will be sent to the county’s Financial Management Committee for its consideration. That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 3:30 p.m.