May 27, 2015

Commission moves to rebid county buildings expansion

By Daniel Arens

Major renovations and expansion projects can be both generally helpful and completely necessary, but they come with a cost – and someone has to pick up the tab.
The Mercer County courthouse and jail are seeking to expand in an attempt to create, among other things, more secure facilities and more jail space to house inmates. A proposed plan for the renovation, with an estimated cost of roughly $9.8 million, was narrowly approved by a public vote during the general primary last year. Pete Filippi, Contegrity Group, gathered bids from different companies for the various aspects of the expansion.
The Mercer County Commission reviewed the bidding plan for the renovation that was presented by Filippi Wednesday, May 20. The proposed plan for all of the accumulated bids totalled $11,030,005.97. Besides the increase in the total amount, several of the individual projects were not bid on; these spaces were filled with cost estimates. The actual bidding cost could, of course, be more or less than the projected bid amount.
The commissioners determined that the projected cost was too expensive as it stood, and that they would rebid the expansion project in November, when companies were likely to have fewer projects on their hands and a more competitive bidding process could occur. In the meantime, a committee will be put together to determine which areas within the project as it currently stands can be cut to bring costs down.
The commission agreed that the low number of bids and the higher amounts were likely due to companies being rolled up with summer work and large projects around the state. They hope that between the rebidding process that could garner more bids and the ability of a commission to cut more out of the plan, the costs can be brought to a more manageable level. However, there is little chance that even these reductions will be enough to bring the number down to the $9.8 million proposal on which the public voted.
The proposal is divided roughly into three sections:
County Auditor Shana Brost said that it will be unlikely that any further cuts could be found, saying that in order to bring the amount down to the $9.8 million, an entirely new plan will basically have to be drafted.
A committee had already gone through the plans and cut roughly $700,000 after preliminary cost estimates showed that the project might be well above the voter-approved proposal, and Brost expressed doubts that the amount could be further reduced.

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