Rachael Keating/Clinton Herald

Construction workers are shown in late July at the site that will house Clinton County’s new law center.

CLINTON — Clinton County is currently $2 million over budget for the law center project, the Clinton County Board of Supervisors acknowledged Monday.

Seventy-four percent of voters in May 2016, during a special countywide election, voted in favor of issuing bonds for up to $22 million for construction of a new law center. The passage authorized the county to issue general obligation bonds not to exceed $22 million to pay for designing, constructing, equipping and furnishing a jail, sheriff’s office, 911/communications center and Emergency Management Agency office and demolition of the existing facility.

Clinton County Supervisor Dan Srp said as of now the county is approximately $2.1 million over budget, but that the county has identified ways to potentially cut the overage down to approximately $1.5 million through cost-saving construction opportunities identified in the county’s most recent construction contract.

“I know there’s been concerns raised about the cost overage on this project and previously I’ve been pretty adamant it’s premature to say that,” Srp said. “I think that this one last contract that we’re approving today, had it come in a little bit differently where we were targeting it to come in, we could have had a different outcome on this discussion. That said, it was also lower than the second bid by over $800,000.”

He added that stalling the project would create additional problems.

As part of moving forward with the construction, the Supervisors on Monday approved a resolution awarding a bid to Swanson Construction Company for various aspects of construction of the law center facility. The bid from Swanson Construction Company came in at $5.045 million. Portzen Construction was the second lowest bid at $5.7 million. Tricon Construction submitted the highest bid at $5.814 million. Supervisor Shawn Hamerlinck and Srp voted in favor of the resolution. Supervisor Tom Determann voted against the resolution.

Srp said he was “not at all happy” the project’s cost is coming in over the budgeted amount. He said while the project came in over budget, it was important for the county to build a facility to serve the long-term needs of the county and that they protected the integrity of the project.

“I still believe it was the right time and the right project,” Srp said. “It was desperately needed in Clinton County and in hindsight I still would have moved forward through the entire process. I think all of us in hindsight maybe could identify one or two things had we had the opportunity to do it a little bit different. But I don’t see any big missteps that led to this either.”

Samuels Group President and Owner Side Samuels said the total cost for the project came in at $25.48 million. The Samuels Group serves as the construction manager for the construction of the law center facility. The total cost includes construction bids, furniture and all necessary aspects of the new facility. The cost after credits for the project are accounted for is over $24.1 million. That leaves the $2.1 million deficit over the amount approved by voters.

“There are areas in which we are looking to continue to reduce cost and help reduce that overall over-budget number,” Samuels said. “We are in current conversations with that particular company looking for additional savings or value engineering opportunities. They have given us a list so we have identified those costs. We received those on Thursday and haven’t had a chance to vet those out with the entire design team and the county to make sure some of those are acceptable or not.”

Samuels said one aspect that led to the county coming in over budget for the project is the marketplace. Samuels said there is “a lot of activity going on” in the market, creating challenges. He added they took many items out of the law center plans in order to save the county money.

“We’ve had multiple value engineering discussions to look at finishes, look at square footage, look at the project,” Samuels said. “We have actually taken a substantial amount of items out in order to continue to save money and at the same time continue to maintain the integrity of the design and integrity of the function. It was a lot of work. A lot of work went into this. Unfortunately we’re not where we want to be but we have, I can tell you with confidence, we have worked diligently to get the number as low as we possibly can as of today and will continue to do so with some additional areas we’re working on.”

Srp said the county also made a couple additions to the project for security and future savings. The project team made a decision to proceed with an elevated control station for the jail. The control station allows the county to have a true sight-and-sound barrier between cells. Srp cited Prison Rape Elimination Act regulations at the federal level and new state regulations, stating the county did not feel the traditional method of constructing the facilities met those requirements. He said the elevated control station helps ensure the safety and security of personnel and inmates at the facility.

Srp said the county took a long-term approach in adjusting its plans for adding additional bed space at the law center. The county, prior to the referendum, discussed having expansion potential to add 24 beds on the second floor. The county decided to relocate the expansion potential area to the first floor, which Srp said will lead to future cost savings for the county.

“Through our design process, we had discussion about how at the time that was added it would require adding a full-time staff position to supervise those 24 inmates,” Srp said. “Which in staffing a facility like this equates to five full-time employees for that one position. By relocating that expansion opportunity off the second floor to the first floor adjacent to the intake and processing area we already had staffed, we will eliminate the need to add staff for that position.”

Determann referenced the county dealing with the same issue of overspending the budget at the time the current law center was constructed. He also raised concern about where the county will get the funds to pay for the overage.

“Dan (Srp) alluded to the previous law center, the same money problem,” Determann said. “They had an estimate, they bonded for it and then did not cover it. And I would have hoped we would have done a better job here of overestimating the estimate and coming $2 million under budget instead of $2 million over budget.”

Hamerlinck suggested the county look into either using money from the general fund or from a payment the county is supposed to receive from the city of Clinton for the railport bond to cover the overage. Hamerlinck referenced the county’s commitment to increasing the amount in the general fund over the past three years, which currently is at just under $4.8 million after sitting at $3.1 million three years ago.

“We do not have the opportunity to use the old facility,” Hamerlinck said. “Clearly, the state inspector stated the facility is no longer to be utilized. We can’t leave a hole in the ground. We have to put a roof on it. We have to complete the project. I, in my mind, do not think it’s an opportunity for this board to borrow more money. I do not believe we can raise taxes either. So we have to find a way to figure this out. We’re not going to borrow more money. We’re not going to raise taxes and you’re not going to leave an empty hole in the ground. So what are our options? We do have a contingency fund but realistically that would be a reimbursement after the project is completely done.”