Cost estimate for housing unit at detention center climbs

Additional fencing, foundation and site work will likely add $550,000 to cost

Additional fencing, foundation and site work will likely add $550,000 to cost

November 03, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- An emergency housing unit at the Washington County Detention Center is likely to cost about $550,000 more than budgeted, Deputy Director of Public Works Robert J. Slocum told the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday.

The actual amount will depend on the construction bids, but the architect's estimate for the project's construction, plus inspection fees and a 5 percent contingency, is about $3 million, Slocum said. The construction budget is $2.5 million, he said.

The commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with advertising the project with an understanding that a budget transfer from the county's capital improvement contingency fund might be necessary.

The increase in the estimated construction cost is due to the need for additional fencing, foundation and site work outside the building, as well as additional security details inside the building, said architect Brent Feight of Bushey Feight Morin Architects Inc.


"Believe me, this is the last thing that I want to do, is come back before you on this project," Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore told the commissioners. "However I feel as though we have our backs against the wall. To do nothing is not an option in this case."

The detention center has 333 beds for male inmates and 57 beds for female inmates, Mullendore said. This year, it has averaged 354 male inmates and 59 female inmates, meaning about 23 inmates have been sleeping on cots in the center's day areas or open areas, he said.

That arrangement is stressing both inmates and staff, Mullendore said. It makes conducting counts more hazardous for staff and it leaves inmates' property open to other inmates who use the day areas, he said.

The emergency housing unit would add 80 to 96 beds in a new, medium-security building behind the existing detention center, designed to handle the overflow until further expansion is possible, Mullendore said.

The original proposal was for 96 beds, but to reduce the cost, officials decided to seek bids for an 80-bed unit with options for adding 8 or 16 more, so the commissioners could decide how many beds to build after receiving the bids, Slocum said. The $2.5 million estimate is for an 80-bed unit.

When Commissioner Terry Baker asked what would happen if the county didn't build the unit, Mullendore said the department would probably have to put inmates in the gymnasium, which would conflict with inmates' exercise during the winter, leaving the county open to potential lawsuits. The increased risk of assaults due to open housing also poses safety and liability risks, Mullendore said.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval asked for more detail on the changes that increased the construction cost estimate.

The fencing and the security details were things that designers did not anticipate needing until they began to examine how the unit would function, Slocum said.

"Logistically, as we get into the operations details, the operation folks begin to see how they're going to transfer inmates in and out of this facility as well as within the facility itself, and they may need an additional sally port here for this hallway or there," Slocum said. "Those are not inexpensive items."

Project officials held several "value engineering" meetings to keep the cost of the project as low as possible, Slocum said. They saved about $50,000 by doing the site design in-house and reduced the site work cost by a couple hundred thousand dollars through decisions such as cutting back the hot water system and finding a way to eliminate the need for an air exchange system while still meeting code, he said.

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