County Commissioners meet with construction company, architects on jail, courthouse projects

August 13, 2013

During Monday afternoon's session of the Nolan County Commissioners' meeting, the commissioners met with Turner Construction and Wigington Hooker and Jeffry Architects in order to discuss and determine the GMP (guaranteed maximum price) for the Nolan County Sheriff's Office and Jail.
Mike Kaiman, the vice president/general manager of Turner Construction, offered a history of the project. In mid-2012, a budget was established at the total of $9.8 million for the sheriff's office and jail.
However, from June to December in 2012, the bond election took place, as the contract was accepted in October, the election was approved the following month, and a notice to proceed was given in December.
From February to the present, design, development and construction documents were being formed, while the price was also increasing. February's price was at $10.8 million, but as of August, the price stands at $11,918,000.
The past month has been spent discussing the engineering aspects of the project and determining what VE (value engineering) items the county wants to proceed with or reject. Thus, three options were presented to the county as to what steps they can take to reach the target amount of $9.8 million.
First, the county can accept the proposed GMP with the proposed VE items, in order to stay in budget--which would mean making cuts that the county would not be comfortable with.
The second option would allow the county to accept the project with the VE items they are comfortable with. However, by doing so, additional funds would be required.
Finally, the commissioners could opt to decline the GMP proposals, which would prompt them to ask for competitive bids. As a result, the project would escalate to around $12.5 million and would potentially have to go through a redesign.
One of the aspects that has played a role in costs is the increase of the construction market. From the first part of this year through June, the market has seen a 6% increase, and is expected to rise by at least 1% within the next few months.
Additionally, the project could see a six month delay through the final option, changing the scope. Along with the market change, the overall square footage of the project and the delay with the November bond election, these factors have left all parties unhappy on the current status of the project.
Terry Locklar, commissioner for Precinct 2, stated that the first two options were simply unacceptable and couldn't be accepted by the court. They have no intention to go back to the public for a price amount, as the people knew what was wanted and the cost.
The county's goal in the project is to have a facility that will last--by making cuts, a project of this magnitude could not be given to the citizens. Don Olson with Wigington Hooker and Jeffry architects explained that the outside public factor is something that must be considered, but again cited the rising market as another factor and stated that they would be looking for more ways to remain within the progress and scope of the project.
The county's outside counsel was also in attendance at the meeting, who explained that the concern of the county is that they were not given a complete understanding of the figures and that schedule values had not been presented. While the contract stated that the county should be made aware of such information, they felt like the initial discussions began with the GMP conferences in June.
Outside counsel also stated that they felt that more VE work could be done, and that the project is not at a "take it or leave it" stage just yet. Thus, everyone must bring something to the table to make the project work and move forward.
Discussion was then held on various amenities of the project, such as the design, the eye-in-the-sky, and the fire alarm and smoke detector systems. The county and the companies have discussed with the Jail Commission whether or not the items meet their requirements or far exceed them.
Regardless, Locklar explained that even with the few cuts mentioned, the price would still not come close to budget. The only way to do that would be to make extensive cuts--like reducing the 96 beds in the jail, and the county is not willing to cut bed space.
Locklar added that he, along with the other commissioners, have felt the heat and criticism from the citizens through letters to the editor and personal interactions. However, he stressed that in order for the people in the county to fully understand what is going on, they need to make a point to attend these types of meetings to be completely informed.
Another concern, posed by Precinct 4 commissioner Tony Lara, was the market increase and how the company could not include the projection into the price. While Turner was not involved in the process until December, Kaiman stated that at this time, all projects are now going over budget.
An additional concern was posed by County Attorney Lisa Peterson, who questioned the overlap of the projects. The county was informed that there would be no overlap, as the citizens of the county wanted the courthouse to be completed first.
Pat McGowan, the county clerk, echoed the sentiments felt by the citizens, in that the GMP--which now stands almost $2 million over--is upsetting. The public doesn't understand the increase of the market and other factors, but are now coming to the conclusion that they are paying more for less of a product.
Sheriff David Warren also questioned the rising costs and the lack of notification on its escalation. Peterson also stated that initially, the county was informed that costs would not have to be a worry for them, but four months later, the county was informed of the concern.
Warren also asked why their project stands around $334 per square foot, while other similar projects are around $280 to $300. After comparing the Nolan County project to a similar project in Texas, it was determined that the square footage and other spacing plays a factor.
There were some things that could be cut in VE items to bring the project to around $303 per square foot, but most projects now stand around the price range due to the market increases. Warren said that throughout the entire process, it seemed as if what the county wants for the project doesn't matter.
Thus, Peterson simply stated that the county now had three options: get more money, change the project, or try again and start over.
McGowan expressed her appreciation to the commissioners for their hard work and stated that they should be commended. Both companies also expressed that Nolan County has been one of the most active groups to work with--a group that has been heavily involved throughout the entire process.
Following the lengthy discussion, the commissioners met with outside counsel in a closed, executive session for a little over an hour. When the meeting reconvened, Peterson said that after making changes as to what the county wants, the project now stands at $964,000 over budget.
The county felt that they can work toward more decreases, but also wants the company to consider other changes, although items like the foundation cannot be amended. By working together, the company was asked to bring their best and final offer to the county, which will be presented during a special-called meeting on Monday, August 19.

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