Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Scope of new jail project trimmed

Express Staff Writer

To keep construction of a new public safety facility within its $9.5 million budget, the Blaine County Commission on Tuesday directed architects to reduce the building's scope and its environmentally friendly features.

The building off Airport Way in Hailey will contain a sheriff's office, 911 dispatch center and county jail. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring. However, due to rising fuel costs, extra building demand generated by Hurricane Katrina and unaccounted-for high local housing prices, cost projections for the project have bloated to $11.2 million.

"Either we've got to reduce some of the features or reduce the size or not build it," Commissioner Tom Bowman said during a meeting at the Old Blaine County Courthouse on Tuesday.

The commissioners agreed to suggestions from Lombard-Conrad Architects, a Boise firm, to eliminate two maintenance and parking structures, creating a $457,000 savings.

They also agreed to end an effort to obtain LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for the project from the U.S. Green Building Council. However, they emphasized that they want to maintain many of the energy-saving and healthy-building features in the project's design. Abandonment of obtaining LEED certification was estimated to save another $425,000.

"We can't attain some of these things in the jail part," Sheriff Walt Femling said. "(However), I'd like to see these things implemented in the administration part because it makes sense."

Russel Moorhead, an architect with Lombard-Conrad, said some environmentally friendly features would also add maintenance costs.

To keep the project within budget, the commissioners also deleted $350,000 worth of "contingency" costs. Femling said there would likely be unplanned costs, but that they could be paid for through existing county funds, rather than through the lease-purchase agreement approved by voters in 2004, which caps the project's budget.

That agreement still needs to be approved by a court, a requirement imposed by state law for proposed municipal indebtedness. A hearing on the issue has not yet been scheduled.

Mike Berard, representing Kreizenbeck Constructors, said his firm plans to begin construction on the project in March, and to finish by May 2007.

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