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County jail bids come in nearly double

| July 2, 2004 12:00 AM

By Brent Shrum, Western News Reporter

Bids for the expansion and remodeling of the Lincoln County jail came in Wednesday at nearly double the expected price.

The four bids received by the county ranged from about $1.1 million to $1.25 million. The project had been estimated by the architectural firm L¹Heureux Page Werner at around $600,000.

Lincoln County Commissioner John Konzen said the county will have to review the bids and decide whether to award a contract or revise its plans.

³We¹ll take these under advisement, and we¹ll make a decision as to whether we¹re going to accept the low bid or go back to the drawing board,² he said.

Ron L¹Heureux, whose firm drew up the plans for the project, told the commissioners he would talk to the contractors and ask them ³where do you see that this got off track.²

All four firms bidding on the project are experienced contractors, and their bids showed little variation, noted Alvin Benitz, a member of the county task force that has been working on the jail issue for the past two years.

³To have them all come in that close, they must know something,² Benitz said.

The task force needs to look at the available options for continuing with the project in some form, said member Hank LaSala.

³One thing that is not an option is to drop this,² he said.

The companies that submitted bids for the project were Wadsworth Builders of Great Falls, Swank Enterprises of Kalispell, Diamond Construction of Helena and T.W. Clark Construction of Spokane. The apparent low bidder was Wadsworth at $1.1 million.

Preliminary estimates put the cost of building a new jail at around $4.5 million. The task force initially considered a less extensive remodel of the existing facility pegged at around $300,000, but eventually decided on a more thorough approach.

Undersheriff Jerry Rust said the end results of the proposal make it hard to justify the expense indicated by the bids.

³We¹ve got major problems but I can¹t see spending a million one for 12, 13 beds,² he said.

Located in the courthouse basement, the jail is designed to house 25 to 30 inmates but has held up to 42. The renovation project is designed to meet security and safety needs while adding more space and delaying the need to build a new facility.

The design calls for an addition to the north end of the jail along with some remodeling within the existing facility. Four new cells would be added with two beds each. A holding cell and a padded cell would also be added, each with a capacity of one inmate. An option for double bunking in five existing single cells would allow the jail¹s capacity to be expanded by up to 15 additional inmates after the renovation.

The addition would include a new covered secure entryway, which will lead to a new booking area. A new control room would allow central electronic control of doors within the facility. Showers would be installed in all cells that don¹t currently have them, improving security.

As part of the same project, the dispatch center adjacent to the jail will also be remodeled to improve efficiency and security.

The county has secured a $500,000 loan from a state fund to finance the project. The loan would be paid back over the next 10 years with money the county receives under the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program for federal land.