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Kitsap jail expansion on track — but $3 million over budget

Even as contract workers prepare to pour the second-story floor of the long-awaited but complicated Kitsap County jail expansion, officials are reporting the project’s costs are up to $28.5 million — a $3 million, or 12 percent, increase over earlier estimates.

Reaction to the overruns is mixed. Most county officials say that, while the increase is unanticipated, it is normal in a complex expansion project and the public should know about it.

Others are taking a harder line.

“We’re looking at what has created that (increase), item by item,” said County Commissioner Jan Angel, who chairs key countywide emergency management and public safety boards. “The money is there to support it, but that’s not the point. The question is how did it happen and what do we do now to offset it.”

At the start of the new year, Administrative Services Director William Nogle said the jail expansion project would cost about $25.5 million, to be paid out with a permanent one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase approved by voters in 1999.

But because of circumstances unforeseen by designers, the jail’s price tag went up. Nogle, assigned to manage the jail project, announced his resignation last month to pursue other interests.

County Project Manager Karen Ross is now overseeing the jail project.

An additional $1.9 million, which is a rough estimate, is required to tie the existing jail to the new expansion because of how construction phases are timed and security issues surrounding the existing jail.

“There are some difficulties,” said Kelly Roth, vice president of operations at JE Dunn, the construction management company working on the jail expansion. “It’s a harder project to do...because the work has to be sequenced and phased in such a way.”

Another $300,000 is needed to account for the difficulties in preparing the site, which partially lies on an old ravine covered with fill. Special drilling equipment was required because of boulders entrenched in the ground. The geotechnical analysis completed for the county (not by JE Dunn) didn’t detect the obstructions.

“The underground ones were hardest to anticipate,” Roth said.

And the City of Port Orchard wants the county to update and improve Taylor Street, which lies just to the south of the jail expansion. Those updates bring added costs.

Plus, a redesign of the jail roof is necessary so that it blends in better with the residential neighborhood. That change could cost another $150,000.

“No one likes to see an unforeseen condition,” Roth said. “As far as permitting, it is not unusual for cities to require off-site improvements.”

Yet even with the cost overruns and the complexities of the project, many county officials are of the same thinking — that the county badly needs a new and expanded jail facility and that the revenue streams are there.

“The one-tenth percent sales tax is generating enough to cover the unanticipated drilling and other costs associated with the renovation work,” said County Administrator Malcolm Fleming.

County Commissioner Chris Endresen said the county also wanted to get a progress report out to the public on the jail.

“We wanted people to know because it’s their jail,” Endresen said. “It’s more than we thought it was...but it’s not unusual.”

“I think the county is doing real well,” Roth said. “This is an important job and it’s a big job for the county. I think they are managing it well.”

Larry Bertholf, chief of corrections, said planners need to be flexible in projects like these.

“When a building such as a jail is expanded, things happen that you don’t anticipate,” said Bertholf. “It’s different than just constructing a building from scratch.”

Bertholf expects this expanded jail to be a first-rate, secure facility that will accommodate the growing county’s needs for several decades. With its opening, law enforcement agencies won’t have to worry about seeing the release of criminals shortly after their arrest because of jail overcrowding.

The county has faced jail overcrowding for many years. The current average prisoner count is 275 among 200 beds.

And work, though delayed by some bad, wet weather earlier in the year, is making progress. In January, county officials predicted the entire jail facility would be set to open by June 2003. That has been pushed to August 2003.

The current jail holds 200 beds. The expansion, which is set to be ready by next spring, will contain 310 beds. By August, the renovations on the existing jail should be complete, bringing the total bed count to 512.

The county expects to operate 390 of the 512 beds for the county and its cities by the end of August 2003, while the remainder could be opened up when additional revenue is secured.

Bertholf says he plans to contract beds out to other jurisdictions, most likely in the latter part of 2003.

The plan is to connect a 55,553-square-foot structure along the south side of the current jail. A separate, 8,000-square-foot county maintenance building has already been built at the southwest corner of the courthouse campus that replaced three older maintenance buildings.

The entire complex will share supervisors, maintenance crews, correctional staff members and kitchen crews and operate as one unit.

Concrete work, which accounts for about 90 percents of the materials making up the jail, is complete on the first floor. Electrical and plumbing installations and inspections are finished in the newly enlarged kitchen as well.

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