County questions rising price tag

Darin Moriki
Posted 5/14/12

A dramatic increase in the estimated cost of renovating the Jefferson County jail and building a new community corrections facility has county …

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County questions rising price tag


A dramatic increase in the estimated cost of renovating the Jefferson County jail and building a new community corrections facility has county officials wondering where the money will come from.

The Jeffco Board of County Commissioners learned during its May 1 staff briefing that the estimated total cost for the project had gone up more than $13 million, driven mostly by new projections for the evidence crime lab and the central plant for the facility.

“I’m thinking where we’re going to get this money, but we just don’t have it,” said Commissioner Faye Griffin. “I understand that things change a little bit and building costs go up, but it’s real disappointing to think that if we did the bid and we asked for a crime lab, they would have found out what we needed.”

The project was approved in 2009, and the commissioners appropriated $46.4 million toward architectural services, site development costs and all construction expenses related to the $34.8-million detention-center upgrades and new $11.6 million community correction facility.

The project’s funding is coming from 2009 certificates of participation that were issued after the last payment was made on the county’s 18-year-old Administration and Courts Facility, a move that freed up $7 million a year in bond payments. Preliminary estimates for the project were provided by consulting firm Reilly Johnson Architects, based on 2010 drawings.

Cost projections provided in March by a second consulting firm, Haselden Construction, show a $13.2 million budget shortfall, according to Todd Leopold, county administrative services director. He said changes in the square-footage estimate, increases in projected costs per square foot and unanticipated mechanical needs all contributed to the shortfall.

Hilary Messa, a county facilities and construction project manager, told the commissioners that developments to the crime lab and the central plant comprise nearly 80 percent of the project’s total costs.

Since the project was approved, Messa said, county staff have determined that the crime lab should be 40,996 square feet rather than the 29,487 square feet originally proposed. That change increased estimated construction costs for the lab by 132 percent, from nearly $4.7 million to more than $10.8 million.

Although the square footage of the detention center’s central plant was reduced by 3,082 square feet, Messa said, the price for the construction work increased by 28 percent, from nearly $8.1 to $10.4 million.

Jeff Shrader, support services division leader for the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office, said the 2007 proposal included plans to provide for seven specific concentrations in the lab: DNA analysis, latent prints, photos, videos, chemistry, firearms and tool marks. At the time, the lab would have accommodated seven county employees, but a decision to regionalize the laboratory’s scope bumped that number to 16 employees, increasing the space needs.

Shrader said the move to regionalize the crime laboratory is particularly important, because the turnaround time for the FBI to analyze some evidence submitted by the county can range from three months to a year.

“This has not been done overnight,” Sheriff Ted Mink said. “This has been years and years in the making — driven by the economy — to a place where we all are very comfortable pursuing it.”

Leopold told the commissioners said he is meeting with Haselden representatives to determine why the costs increased so dramatically. However, Messa said, initial projections by Reilly Johnson Architects may not have been sufficiently analyzed by crime-laboratory experts.

“I understand the explanation, but I’m a little more than upset with the process,” Commissioner Don Rosier said. “I’m concerned because we rely on those numbers to allocate project funding, and it just doesn’t look like the homework was done even though we committed a lot of money to get this done. This just cannot happen again.”


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