With county officials hoping that a major addition to the Orange County Jail will open in November--six months behind schedule--the Board of Supervisors has already run into a $1.2-million hitch in the next step of the jail's expansion plans.
The supervisors were told this week that the lowest bid on a planned $2.6-million remodeling plan for the old jail came in at $3.8 million.
"We try to anticipate this and, obviously, in this case, we didn't anticipate enough," said Burdette Pulver, manager of jail construction for the county General Services Administration.
Part of the problem is that the county underestimated the cost of construction inside an operating jail, where work is frequently stopped when prisoners are moved and security precautions restrict the pace of the project, Pulver said.
Beyond County's Control
But, Pulver also said, factors beyond the county's control also contributed to the problem. This has been a bumper year for construction companies that specialize in jail construction, and this particular job was just not very appealing, Pulver said.
"You could say the contractors were not very hungry," he said. "The main thing we couldn't control is the bidding climate at the time."
When bids on the project were first solicited last April, there was only one response, and that was from a company offering to do the job for $4.2 million, according to Clifford Endsley, manager of the GSA's architect and engineer division.
So the project was scaled down, and more than 200 contractors were notified by mail and telephone that more bids would be accepted, Pulver said. That brought in four responses, with Mallcraft Inc. of Pasadena winning the contract at $3.8 million.
The state is expected to pay about $927,000 of the cost overrun, leaving the county with a bill of about $309,000, according to Doug Woodyard of the county administrative office.
The supervisors set aside some money for the overrun after they learned of the bidding problems last spring, but they were not notified of the exact amount until this week.
Balance of $50 Million
The state has already agreed to pay more than $50 million of the cost of the new Orange County jail facility. But county officials so far have requested only about $49 million from the state, based on the original construction estimates.
Supervisors are expected to formally request Tuesday that the state pay the balance of the $50 million. The entire project is now estimated to cost $66 million.
The intake/release center, originally scheduled to open in April, will have 288 beds for maximum-security male inmates and about 112 additional beds for women and inmates needing medical treatment.
Pulver said Friday that the fire marshal is giving the building its final inspection and should be finished by Tuesday. He said the county could apply for its occupancy permit next week.
But before inmates are moved into the new facility, Sheriff Brad Gates has said, the building must be searched for loose objects and checked for security. New guards also must be trained. Gates has said he needs about 30 days for that process.