After a stormy 21/2-hour meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Davis County Commission approved a $20.6 million construction budget for the county's new jail and court complex west of Farmington.
Dissenting Commissioner William "Dub" Lawrence voted against the budget, repeating charges he has made over the past two weeks that the county is not in a strong enough financial position to build or operate the jail once it opens.Lawrence also repeated earlier charges he made that decisions on the construction project have been made in meetings that neither he nor the public were invited to and that the project exceeds the $18.5 million in bonds approved by the county's voters in November 1987.
As a compromise, commissioners William Peters and Gayle Stevenson phrased the motion to approve the construction budget to try and limit the project's cost to $18.5 million, putting the $2.6 million in interest the bond money will earn before it is spent aside as a contingency fund.
Despite the compromise effort, Lawrence voted against the budget, with Peters and Stevenson passing it by a 2-1 margin.
In addition to clashing with his fellow commissioners, Lawrence also butted heads with project manager Joe Rhoads and the county's financial analyst, LaMar Holt.
Both, along with the project's architect and a sheriff's department representative, are members of the jail committee which has been overseeing the complex's construction.
After hearing some critical comments on the budget from Lawrence, Rhoads told him the figures were drawn up under direction of the commissioners, both before and after Lawrence took office in January.
"This is not a political document," Rhoads said. "It was drawn up as a working budget, at the direction of the commissioners. I work for the commission. I don't work for you individually," Rhoads told Lawrence.
"I've attempted to make this budget as realistic as possible. You can't go public with statements that the project is over the budget or under the budget because no budget has been approved yet," Rhoads said.
Rhoads said the county has already started advertising for bidders on the project and bids are scheduled for opening at the April 19 county commission meeting.
Construction could start immediately, Rhoads said, because county crews have already hauled tons of fill dirt and rock to the jail site west of I-15 in Farmington.
Rhoads divided the construction budget into what he called "hard" and "soft" construction costs. Hard costs are actual brick and mortar building costs, Rhoads said, estimating that portion of the budget could be as low as $14 or $15 million.
Soft costs include such things as architect and engineering fees, landscaping, additional water and sewer fees and construction requirements and furnishing the buildings.
Holt said the $18.5 million in bonds will earn the county an estimated $2.1 million in interest before construction is finished in mid- to late 1990. The bonds will actually earn more interest than that, Holt said, but a new federal law requires any interest income earned over the rate the county is paying on the money be turned over to the federal government.
The county has already turned $200,000 in earned interest back to the federal government, Holt said.
Current estimates of the project's actual cost are right around $19 million, Holt said, which leaves the county with a projected $1.6 million cushion, which can be used as a contingency fund to pay for change orders or cost overruns.
The commission briefly considered, but rejected at the urging of Rhoads, delaying the project to allow Lawrence to review it further.
The bidding process has been carefully timed to the county's advantage, Rhoads said. Contractors are hungry right now, Rhoads said, and delaying the project even a few months will cost the county that advantage, in addition to pushing much of the work into the winter rather than the summer construction season.
Rhoads said with the current climate of the construction market and the size of the project, he expects 15 to 20 major contractors, perhaps half of them from out of the area, to bid on the project.