County staff finalizing revised jail budget

  • Friday, August 1, 2014

Dorchester County is working on how to cover a shortfall in the budget for the new jail project.

The county opened five bids on the project in June. However, the low bid, submitted by Aiken-based H.G. Reynolds Company, came in at $18.75 million; the county had passed an $18 million bond for the project.

Thus far, the county has spent around $1.4 million for the purchase of the land and for architectural service, Dorchester County Administrator Jason Ward said.

County staff and Moseley Architects, the architectural firm working on the detention center project, have spent the last month reviewing the bids and working with the construction companies to ensure their proposals adequately cover the scope of the project, Ward said.

Ward said staff met with the county’s financial advisors and bond counsel earlier this week to discuss alternatives to cover the higher costs of construction and to cover equipment and services costs. “Once we have the cash flow of the project in hand, our goal is to structure the financing of the remaining costs so that the county can avoid a tax increase,” Ward said. “This plan could include a request for lease-purchase financing for equipment and additional general obligation bonds to cover hard costs such as construction. Our plan is to get the budget approved so we can get authorization to award a contract subsequent to the meeting.”

The goal is to finalize the revised budget and present it to Dorchester County Council for approval during its August 11 meeting, Ward said. If council approves it, the next step will be to award the contract, Ward said.

H.G. Reynolds company was the low bidder; however, Dorchester County’s procurement policy also allows for companies located in Dorchester County to match within 5 percent of the low bid, Ward said. Brantley Construction, whose bid came in at $19.956 million, is a Dorchester County based company and qualifies for that consideration, he said.

The new detention center, to be built on property at 220 Hodge Road in Summerville, will be some 83,400 square feet and will house 350 beds. Its core areas, like the kitchen and laundry, will be built to serve up to 650, if necessary.

Dorchester County Sheriff L.C. Knight said overall he is pleased with the design of the jail and hopes the county can find the funds needed to pay for the project, including staffing requirements, which are determined by state statute.

“We need it,” Knight said Tuesday. “I think we had 268 in jail as of this morning and we’re currently built for 154. Two years from now I’m probably looking at 350 when we move in. The jail we’ve laid out will be easy to add onto – it will cost money to build a new pod, but not nearly as much as it costs to build a new jail.”

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