County Commissioners discuss jail at meeting

The Nolan County Commissioners met on Monday afternoon to discuss the major construction projects of the county with Turner Construction. The agenda outlined that information would be received on the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) for the Nolan County Jail and Sheriff's Offices, in which discussion would be held and possible action would be taken on this particular aspect of the project.The majority of the meeting was spent evaluating VE (value engineering) items, line by line. By citing if the item should remain or stay connected to the project, cost savings were shown to the commissioners by the company so that the project can stay within the $9.8 million budget.While a long list of options were presented, some aspects were discussed in detail by the commissioners, such as the foundation, the sallyport for the jail and the roof and waterproofing measures. Regarding these items, the commissioners adamantly expressed their opinion. Precinct 2 Commissioner Terry Locklar stated that the facility needed to be built for the future, so the foundation needed to be solid. Locklar also questioned the idea of bringing a third-party roof inspector on site, another item that would be an added cost.But overall, Precinct 4 Commissioner Tony Lara questioned why Turner was presenting these plans, as opposed to the initial plans that were discussed. However, a company representative stressed that their team was only presenting options in order for the commissioners to make a final decision. At that time, Nolan County Sheriff David Warren expressed skepticism due to the fact that, as more numbers are being presented to the county, the total project cost is now almost $2 million over budget. Several of the items presented during the meeting had not been previously approved, he added, and that the new items were more extensive than the previous plans.Tommy White, Precinct 3 Commissioner, felt that while various options were presented, the options discussed by the county had been left out. Commissioner Lara cited miscommunication as a factor.Frustration was felt by the commissioners due to the fact that separate budgets for the three projects--the courthouse facade, county jail, and sheriff's offices--were supposed to be presented during Monday's meeting. Turner, however, stated that they were presented with the VE items only moments before the meeting, and they wanted to take a look at the entire list, as the items would impact the separate budgets.Several other amenities of the facilities were discussed, such as the "eye in the sky," which would give law enforcement a birds-eye view of activity within the building. Also, the company wants to install a state-of-the-art fire alarm system, but Sheriff Warren asked if it could still be maintained. Don Olson with Turner Construction informed the sheriff that this system is actually easier to maintain than the standard system, as a similar system was installed in another facility in Texas.However, one major point that the county will not budge on is the omission of beds in the jail, as stressed by County Attorney Lisa Peterson to the company representatives. Sheriff Warren explained that one of the purposes of the new facility is for the county to keep their inmates, so that they no longer have to house individuals out of county.He also reiterated the point made by Commissioner White that someone else besides the county is making the choices for their facilities. As a result, he said that the project is now five months behind schedule, and questioned if there would be a longer delay.But not only is timing an issue of concern, but cost. Terry Willman, commissioner for Precinct 1, expressed that the project has skyrocketed from $277 per square foot all the way past $300 per square foot due to the increase of the overall budget, which now stands at around $11 million.Thus, cuts may have to be made, said Commissioner White. However, Olson added that while some aspects of the project can be changes, the company has no control over construction costs, in which the overall market has seen an increase.Peterson stressed that the budget amounts for the jail and sheriff's office were needed by the commissioners so that they could know the respective amounts. Sheriff Warren said that this should have been done after the November bond election, but Olson said that while numbers were calculated, they needed to be updated based on costs.However, Warren stated that he was informed that costs were based on future projections. When he met with a company representative last February and asked if the project would be over-budget, he was told no--a response which was also given to Peterson.Olson suggested once again that the company go through the VE list and split the three projects up into their respective budgets. But, the commissioners were informed that some of the bids presented in the VE list were being held for 90 days, and the timeline is already at the 30-day mark.Commissioner Locklar stated that hopefully, the issue would not take the remaining 60 days. He said that the commissioners are being asked regularly about the status of the projects--both locally and beyond, and with the continual delays, the matter is now becoming "embarrassing."Peterson suggested that, now that they have an understanding of what the county wants, Turner come back for the regular August 12 meeting with a breakdown of the three separate budgets, along with a GMP that could be approved during the August meeting. Thus, no action was taken in regards to the project.