LEC, courthouse bid decisions tabled while county considers options
By Bob Steenson, email@example.com
$4.6 million. That’s the amount that current bids for the Floyd County law enforcement center and courthouse update project are above the amount voters approved spending.
The number isn’t a surprise. When bids on the project were opened last Thursday it was apparent that the total price was millions of dollars above the amount of money that will be available through the sale of general obligation bonds.
Tuesday morning, at the county Board of Supervisors regular meeting, the supervisors met with their construction manager and a representative of their architectural firm to figure out what’s next in the process.
The board ended up tabling any action on the bids for at least two weeks, until the next regular meeting.
In the meantime, the construction manager for the project will separate the costs for the new law enforcement center — a new county jail and sheriff’s offices — from the cost of proposed courthouse updates — that include new windows, a new heating and cooling system, new restrooms and new elevators — then make some recommendations.
Sid Samuels, president and owner of The Samuels Group, the company hired by the county as construction manager, went through the numbers Tuesday morning.
Using the lowest bids on each part of the project, the total construction cost is $14.43 million. There will be an additional $1.1 million in “general requirements,” which Samuels said includes the cost of winter heat, dumpsters, construction trailer and other expenses.
There will also be $298,099 in Samuels’ fee — “which we froze at the referendum construction number, so we did not increase those,” plus a 5 percent contingency, of $596,199.
The total construction cost estimate is $16,417,563.
In May 2018, county voters approved selling up to $13.5 million in bonds for the project. Samuels said that after other costs, the amount available for construction, including a 5 percent contingency, was $11.8 million.
That leaves a “variance” between the bid costs and the amount available of $4,617,563.
“So what we’ve done since last Thursday is we’ve reached out to all of the contractors and went through each and every one of their bid categories and asked them to start taking a look at value engineering,” Samuels said, using a term referring to looking at ways to reduce costs while getting the same or greater value.
“We’re gonna ask what the cost of the courthouse renovation is, and break the jail out from the courthouse so we understand the extent of work that’s actually happening inside the courthouse,” Samuels said.
He said it is possible that he will recommend proceeding with construction of the law enforcement center but delaying and perhaps redesigning the work on the courthouse.
Samuels said the cost bid for precast concrete panels for the exterior of the LEC was greater than expected, and there may be ways to come up with some savings there, but otherwise the jail project is “fairly bare bones.”
“I keep going back to the existing courthouse because it’s easy to pick on,” he said. “When I look at the new jail and the courthouse, the new jail is fairly simplistic. … It isn’t like we have a lot of stuff in there that I can go in and say, ‘let’s take the porcelain tile out’ — that isn’t in there.”
Samuels said that based on what was being proposed for the courthouse updates in the original referendum and what was bid, “I think there is a difference.”
“I want to get that figured out, bring it in here. You may choose to continue to move forward with it. That’s fine. But my job is to bring you that information so you can make that decision,” Samuels said.
The county legally has 30 days from the time the bids were opened to accept or reject any of them.
Samuels said he would bring the board his recommendations in two weeks, then he advised them to “sleep on it,” and perhaps call a special meeting to make a decision before the 30 days are up.
“We may come in with something crazy and you say, “You’re kidding, right,” but I think that after you’ve had an opportunity to reevaluate it, there may be things that you’re very much opposed to, and there may be things that you’re acceptable to, and I think we need to have those discussions,” he said.
Supervisor Linda Tjaden had acknowledged last week after the bids were open that the updates to the courthouse may have to be an area that is reevaluated.
Tjaden agreed with Samuels’ plan Tuesday, but warned, “What we don’t want to do is lose momentum. A delay is going to cost us.”
Samuels agreed, saying they should at least begin the LEC work if possible, because putting it off to another construction season would likely add about 4 percent in inflation to the price. At a project this size that could be an additional half a million dollars.
The supervisors voted 3-0 to table the decision until at least Sept. 24 to await Samuels’ analysis and recommendations.