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Architect hopes to trim bids for Washington County Jail

BEN INGRAM • Mar 22, 2007 at 12:18 PM

JOHNSON CITY - Despite construction bids coming in higher than projected for Washington County's jail expansion and Justice Center project, architect Ken Ross said he believes a more reasonable price can be reached by next month.

Ross told members of the Washington County Commission's Jail Building Committee Wednesday that the current low bid was $24.85 million by BurWil Construction.

Originally, the county had applied for $21 million in loans to cover the cost of construction for the new Justice Center and jail additions.

"I tried to forewarn the committee at the last meeting that construction costs were coming in high," Ross said.

Of the $135.69 million in bonds issued for the county's building programs, $21.32 million has been earmarked for the jail expansion and Justice Center project.

Ross said another problem centered around one company not including the additional jail cells in its bid price.

"BurWil is now the low bidder. They were the ones that originally built the jail and are currently working on one in Sullivan County," he said. "In the meantime, we're working as much as we can to reduce the cost of the project without harming what is needed."

Ross said the square footage of the Justice Center would remain the same despite any adjustments. The project also includes plans for 226 additional beds to increase the detention center's total to 578.

"I'd be surprised if by the time we move in our head count wasn't already over 600," Jail Administrator Brenda Downes said of the overcrowded conditions at the detention center.

Ross also warned that by reducing the cost, there is not always a savings if the committee has to come back at a later date to do the work.

"Coming back later (to finish a portion of the project) can be more expensive," Ross said.

"But we will see some savings. ... Inmates are doing the painting, which comes to about $30,000 in savings. Overall, I think we can get $2 (million to) $3 million out without hurting the integrity of the project."

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