$11 million more: County re-thinking plans to start building new jail

Published 9:49 am Thursday, February 3, 2022

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By Mike Barnhardt
Enterprise Record

Davie County commissioners are rethinking plans to go ahead with construction of a new jail this year.
The $16.1 million estimated cost from two years ago is now $27.1 million.
And industry experts told commissioners that even if they wait, the cost is not likely to go down. Interest rates could, however, go up.
“Just given the unbelievable escalation in the detention center, when do we have to do this?” Commissioner Terry Renegar asked during a board meeting.
The answer isn’t clear, but the reasons to build a new detention center are compelling, said Sheriff J.D. Hartman.
“I can’t tell you there’s an exact date,” Hartman told the board. “We already are not in compliance, so they (state) could chooose tomorrow to start dinging us. They could choose tomorrow to shut the jail down.”
Hartman said the state has been satisfied because the county was on track to building the new jail.
“They’re aware that we are planning … so we continue to get by.”
He also said there have been two major lawsuits resulting from jail conditions. And as cells break, Hartman said replacement parts can’t be found.
The proposed jail should last the county 50-60 years, Hartman said, and should cut down on routine maintenace with county crews now there almost constantly, and could bring in more revenue with a new kitchen. That alone could save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
The design, he said, isn’t out of line. “We cut a lot of what we would like to have because it’s not what you’d like to have, it’s what you got to have to function.
“My task is to design a jail that meets the needs of the county. How we pay for it … that’s our partnership. The sheriff runs it and ya’ll figure out how to pay for it, unfortunately. But that increase, that’s huge. I’m with ya’ll.”
County Manager David Bone said waiting a year or two may not help with costs. The fact that others are waiting to build will likely keep the price of materials high.
“None of us have crystal ball, but based on our discussions with our consultants, the issues we see today are still going to be here in 12-24 months. So delaying this project may actually cost more money,” Bone said.
Jason Hopkins, project manager with Mosley Architects, agreed.
“All of the cost estimators and contractors I’ve talked to believe that costs will probably level out within the next year or so, but not go back down,” Hopkins said.
He thinks the supply chain issue will work itself out, but a skilled labor shortage that started prior to the pandemic is getting worse.
Current estimates for the new detention center are $450-$460 per square foot.
Mitch Brigulio, county consultant and senior vice president for Davenport Public Finance, went through the county’s capital improvement plan, of which the new jail is a priority. He went through how the county could pay for the new jail and other improvements to buildings, and although he said he used conservative estimates and that other funding sources may be available – the county would be some $8.1 million short.
Commissioners are expected to discuss the issue at a future meeting, and a public hearing will be held before the new capital improvement plan is approved.