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County group working on law enforcement center budget questions

This drawing shows the new law enforcement center that will be built west of the Floyd County courthouse. (Prochaska and Associates model)
This drawing shows the new law enforcement center that will be built west of the Floyd County courthouse. (Prochaska and Associates model)
By Bob Steenson, 

Differences on cost estimates for the Floyd County law enforcement center and courthouse update project led to what county Supervisor Linda Tjaden predicted would be “a long afternoon” Monday.

Construction cost estimates by the Samuels Group, which the county is going to hire as the construction manager on the project, are higher than the initial project estimates by the architect and design company, Prochaska & Associates.

While not releasing specific numbers yet, it was clear that everything the county wanted to do as far as building a new county jail and Sheriff’s Office and renovating the courthouse, would not fit within the budget using the numbers the Samuel Group was coming up with.

Floyd County voters approved a $13.5 million bond referendum last May to finance the new law enforcement center and courthouse updates. That number was based on initial project cost estimates from Prochaska & Associates.

“There’s discrepancies between how the estimates came back originally from Prochaska, and now that Samuels is looking at some of these estimates there can be a big difference in them,” Tjaden said during a project update Monday morning at a Floyd County Board of Supervisors workshop meeting.

“I’m at the point I finally just told them, we’re the owners, you need to have this conversation, this has gone on long enough,” Tjaden said. “Let’s have this meeting today and let’s hash through it and let’s get going. So, here we are.”

Much of the day-to-day oversight of the project has been handled by what has been called the “core team.”

That consists of Supervisor Tjaden, who spearheaded the effort by a community committee to come up with a recommendation on how to solve the problem of the county’s outdated jail; County Auditor Gloria Carr, who has responsibility for the maintenance and management of the courthouse building; and Sheriff Jeff Crooks, who is responsible for managing the county jail and whose department would move into the new law enforcement center.

That team planned to meet with representatives of Prochaska & Associates and the Samuels Group Monday afternoon.

Tjaden said this would be the first opportunity for both companies to sit down with representatives of the county at the same table.

“They’ve had conversations, but not with us,” Tjaden said. “I finally just said it’s time that they come in front of us and we’re going to listen to them and we’ll find out where the concerns are and we’ll just have to make decisions.”

Even Prochaska’s own cost estimates increased beyond the $13.5 million after they included several renovations within the courthouse that had been requested by various departments, such as moving departments to different offices within the building to take advantage of the space that would open up once the current county jail and Sheriff’s Office are removed from the top floor of the courthouse.

Tjaden said maybe some of those renovations won’t be possible, or the county will need to come up with additional funding sources to pay for them if it is decided they are important enough.

Some items will likely have to be bid as alternates, so if the total construction bids come in too high the board can decide to forego some of the expenses.

“We’ve got to figure out what becomes an alternate,” Tjaden said. “Let’s just make that decision. I’m hoping today that we get down to that level of detail. I don’t know if we will or not.

“Before they leave today we need to say, here’s the next steps,” Tjaden said Monday morning. “We’re willing to understand that some of these are going to be alternates, but let’s get them out on the table so that we can make those decisions and let’s move forward.”

Any significant decisions regarding the project will need to be made by the full board of supervisors, and Tjaden said she hopes she will have a progress report to give the other two supervisors after the meeting Monday.

Supervisor Chairman Doug Kamm said, “Ultimately it’s a board decision and not the core team’s decision.”

“Exactly,” said Tjaden.

Although the bond referendum did not commit the county to a specific law enforcement center design or specific courthouse updates, Tjaden said the project was presented to the voters with certain things in mind.

“What are those things that are rock solid we’re not budging on?” Tjaden asked. “We can’t budge on certain things, but others we can. Let’s just figure out what those are, and whether there’s other funding sources.”

The new jail is the most important part of the project, she said. As far as the courthouse, new windows and a new heating and cooling system were the items that were mentioned consistently during the bond campaign.

“Those are the major things, and you guys have talked about those things for years,” Tjaden said to the other supervisors and to Auditor Carr on Monday.

“I feel like that’s something that we as a board would say, that’s something we have to get done, but maybe some of these other movements of offices and taking out a wall or doing certain things just may not make sense,” she said.