The boom in Utah’s growing economy is having at least one unfortunate side effect in Moab: It’s driving up the price tag for long-awaited upgrades to Grand County’s aging jail.
As once-idle contractors hit hard by the Great Recession return to work on construction sites around the state, building costs continue to rise, and the county’s jail renovation project team now expects to pay about $250,000 more on the improvements.
Hogan & Associates President and CEO Mike Hogan said the project’s budget is somewhat at the mercy of an economy where contractors are in relatively short supply these days.
“I don’t think anyone needs to talk about the way the economy is in the state, and the fact that … it’s really hard, busy and expanding,” he told the Grand County Council during its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 7. “As we’ve taken that into account and we’ve put our budgets together, we’ve done it three or four times, trying to get the project within the available funds.”
Even so, the project team plans to ask the Grand County Council for an extra $300,000, including $50,000 in contingency funds in the event that they ever need them.
Grand County Emergency Management Director Rick Bailey said the project team has already cut about $125,000 from the $5 million-plus project, but remains about $250,000 short.
“We’ve asked the architect to go back and to eliminate some things in the building proposal and to still end up with a suitable project,” he said.
Archiplex Group Principal Ralph Stanislaw said the project remains focused on security upgrades and operational improvements to the facility, which the county last remodeled in the 1990s. Priorities include plans for new locking systems and cell doors, along with safety improvements to lines of sight and corridors within the building.
As of right now, though, the planned upgrades will leave the jail with just one additional bed, and Grand County Council member Lynn Jackson had a sardonic reaction to the bare-bones changes.
“We’re paying $5 million for some new locks … and a new bed?” Jackson said, to laughter from the council’s chambers.
The bulk of the project’s funding comes from Utah’s Permanent Community Impact Fund Board (CIB), which gave the county a grant last year for $2.327 million, along with a $2.328 million loan at a 2.5 percent interest rate over a 20-year period. The county previously committed $400,000 in matching funds for the project.
It still has a little more than $200,000 in contingency funds to cover any unforeseen problems that might arise, and Grand County Clerk Diana Carroll told the council that additional funding may be available in the county’s general fund. According to Carroll, the county ended 2015 with more than $3.5 million in that fund balance.
Carroll praised the project team for working hard to reduce the project’s costs.
“They’ve cut so much now that it’s just about back to where we were at square one,” she said.
Moving forward, though, Hogan noted that there comes a certain point when there are diminishing returns to further cuts.
“You need to provide the services that the sheriff wants, and of course, we could provide a lesser facility,” he said.
But in order to meet Grand County Sheriff Steve White’s minimal expectations, he said, the project really needs “a few more bucks.”
Bailey estimated that the project team has already completed about 80 percent of the preliminary work on the upgrades, and predicted that the county could go out to bid on the construction phase in the next few weeks.
“We’re going to push it hard and get the work done as quick as we can,” Bailey said.
At this point, the council has not awarded any additional funding for the renovations, and Grand County Council member Chris Baird said he’d like to see how everything shapes up before he votes to do so.
“If it’s public information that we’re just putting $300,000 more into the project, it’s pretty easy for somebody to come along and say, ‘Add $300,000 to what they’re bidding,’” Baird said. “It just seems a little strange to me to put the money out there first before we go out to bid.”
Officials to seek another $300,000 in funding for upgrades
We’ve asked the architect to go back and to eliminate some things in the building proposal and to still end up with a suitable project.