Oct. 16, 2006

Cost estimate for jail project gives Wright County Board sticker shock

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

The nearly $45 million building cost estimate for the new jail and law enforcement center was much higher than the Wright County Board expected.

“Until recently, we have been talking about $30 to $35 million. I am having a bit of sticker shock. I think we have some work to do,” Board Chair Karla Heeter commented

Representatives from KKE Architects and Adolphson & Peterson Construction were on hand to present the schematic estimate for the project.

Randall Lindemann of KKE said that design for the project was based on a 20-year plan with the goal of providing a facility that allowed for efficient operation and expandability.

The facility was designed with a maximum initial capacity of 266, and a maximum occupancy of 600 beds.

The 89-acre site for the project is currently in Buffalo Township, and will need to be annexed into the City of Buffalo.

The total estimated cost for the project is $53,871,714.

A variety of options are available to reduce this cost.

Building costs

The building cost could be reduced by $1,066,066 by using steel cells instead of pre-cast cells.

More than $4 million could be saved by eliminating a 60-cell pod.

The board discussed this possibility in depth.

The plan includes both indirect and direct supervision pods.

The direct supervision cells require a staff-to-inmate ratio of 1-to-60. The ration for indirect supervision is 1-to-40, based on Department of Corrections guidelines.

Much of the project is designed for ease of expansion.

The indirect supervision area is designed for maximum occupancy, since this area would be difficult to expand. The same is true for the food preparation area.

The direct supervision area, on the other hand, is designed to be expandable.

The need for the space compared to increasing construction costs were among the considerations.

“It will cost a lot more to build that 60-bed pod in 10 years,” Board Member Jack Russek said.

Sawatzke objected to a glass wall on the south side of the building, noting that he believes glass walls provide poor climate control and are more expensive to build.

Lindemann disagreed, saying that glass walls maximize natural light, an important factor because the project is designed with a chase behind every cell to allow “borrowed light” which reduces the cost to light the facility during daylight hours.

He also said that with modern systems, it is not difficult to achieve heating and cooling efficiency.

Sawatzke maintained his objection, stating later in the meeting that the county needs, “a good, functional jail with solid brick walls.”

Sheriff Gary Miller objected to the suggestion that the design includes extravagant features.

“We haven’t tried to build the Taj Mahal. This is as functional as we could make it,” Miller said.

The heating system is another component that was discussed by the board.

The two options are a geothermal system and a conventional system.

A geothermal system would add approximately $188,525 to the building cost, but could reduce operating costs. Russek said he would need to see figures on the payback period for a geothermal system before he could make a decision.

It was noted that average cost for five jail projects completed in Minnesota in the last five years was $237 per square foot, and this estimate is equivalent to $230 per square foot.

Other costs

The plan includes a cost estimate of $2,241,197 for furniture, fixtures, and equipment.

“What efforts are being made to utilize existing desks, chairs, etc.?” Sawatzke asked, noting that selling existing furniture at auction would bring pennies on the dollar, while the county would pay a premium price to purchase new equipment.

Lindemann said that the question of what furniture can be reused cannot be answered at this time.

The proposal includes $400,000 for sewer and water access charges, but the county may be eligible for a credit for abandoning the existing 100-bed facility.

Staffing requirements

Sawatzke noted that the county will be moving from a small, inefficient jail to a large, efficient one, and asked how staffing numbers will compare.

Torfin said that there are seven or eight staff at the current jail, and a minimum of 10 staff members will be needed when the new jail opens.

Road changes

MnDOT does not have funds in its current budget to move roads and provide access off of Highway 25. This will have to be addressed as the process moves forward, according to Lindemann.

Braddock Avenue may also need to be expanded, or modified to include turn lanes.

The board accepted the schematic design report with the understanding that KKE will implement changes and cost-saving measures in the next phase of the project.

KKE will present revised plans at the Tuesday, Nov. 7 board meeting.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board:

• conducted a bid opening for a Silver Creek Township bridge project. Seven bids were received, ranging from $40,802 to $68,920. The board chose not to accept two bids that were received by facsimile, because they did not meet the requirement of being sealed bids. The board will consider approval of a bid at its next meeting.

• approved rezoning 27 acres owned by Cary Hourscht in Marysville Township from general agricultural to agricultural/residential.

• approved rezoning 14 acres owned by Ken Beise in Rockford Township from general agricultural to suburban residential.

• authorized Wright County Auditor Bob Hiivala and Russek to contact vendors to repair a 50 to 100-foot stretch of Wright County Ditch 34 on property owned by Terri Johnson.

• scheduled a meeting to review tax forfeiture properties, Monday, Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. in the second floor conference room.

• approved a claim for reimbursement of $63.84 in postage. Hiivala noted that his department expedited the mailing of absentee ballots to US citizens who are temporarily overseas. He said that this has not been done in the past, but he has heard that some ballots in previous years have not arrived on time.

• approved a maintenance agreement with Hennepin County for the east half of County Line Road (McLeod County Road 139) and County State Aid Highway 17 in the southwest corner of Wright County.

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