Cost estimate puts kink in juvenile facility plans

The estimated cost to move the jail’s juvenile detention center took Ward County commissioners by surprise Tuesday.

The construction manager produced a preliminary estimate of $1.78 million to remodel space in the lowest level of the courthouse, near the juvenile court offices, for seven juvenile detention cells. The desire is to move youth housed in an eight-bed unit in the jail farther away from adult offenders. The county received a $200,000 state grant for the project.

Commissioners were expecting total costs to be closer to $800,000.

Architect Don Davison said security measures are more costly than anticipated. With steel partitions, special cell doors and the electronics required in a detention facility, the cost per cell just for those features is $43,000.

Sheriff Steve Kukowski voiced his concern that relocating juvenile detention could take up to 17 percent of money allocated to construction of a jail expansion.

“$1.8 million is going to take away too much from the original jail plan, and we have no idea what that cost is going to be,” he told commissioners. Given the cost of the juvenile facility, the cost of the jail also could be more than anticipated, he said after the meeting

The jail was estimated at $10.5 million in November 2012 when voters approved a half-cent sales tax to provide just over $39 million to pay for the jail, a county office building, courthouse renovation and some flood-damaged road and bridge repairs.

“I want to know where all our numbers are before we go ahead with this,” commissioner Alan Walter said of the juvenile detention facility. “I am not comfortable with this. We are double, maybe more, of what our original estimate is.”

Davison said he would continue to visit with suppliers to get better cost estimates to present at a future meeting.

“But we just don’t see cutting that number in half,” he said.

Walter said getting the number closer to $1 million would be acceptable.

Kukowski indicated that he does not want the remodeling for the juvenile detention center to negatively affect the jail expansion project.

“We are going to have to look very hard at this to see if it’s worth the cost,” he said.

Discussions are ongoing on the schematics for the jail addition. Meanwhile, construction of the county office building is close to being on schedule and should be able to catch up with spring approaching, Davison reported to the commission.