I would like to set the record straight on a recently printed Associated Press conflict-of-interest story regarding Gary DeLand and the selection of an architect for the new Washington County Jail. The facts are these:

As stated in the article, Washington County hired architects Gillies, Stransky, Brems & Smith to do a feasibility study for a new jail for the county. This was a public document and available to anyone. Washington County decided to proceed to build a new jail and formed a jail selection committee consisting of County Planner John Willie as chairman, Sheriff Glenwood Humphries, Corrections Administrator Jon Neighbor, County Attorney Eric Ludlow, then County Commissioner Russell Gallian and Gary DeLand.DeLand was asked to serve on the committee. He is a resident of the county and elected to serve at no cost as a public service, even though he was offered pay for his service. He is a jail consultant in demand throughout the nation. Washington County was fortunate to have his services, let alone to have them offered at no cost.

Next, contractors with experience in building jails were then contacted and asked to submit a letter of interest and qualifications. From eight to 10 letters were received. After reviewing these letters, the list of possible contractors was narrowed to three - one from California and two from Utah. Each contractor got the same instructions. This was to be a design-build project with a budget of $12 million. The jail contract dealt only with the county and the contractor. It had no commitment or responsibility to any architect. The contractors were responsible to select their own architect who would work with them to design a jail that would meet the needs of the county and stay within budget.

At the appointed day, design proposals and bids were received at a public meeting. I attended that meeting because I was going to take Gallian's seat on the County Commission in January and was interested in the outcome.

The first two bids were for $18 million and $17 million. The bid from Sahara Construction, which had chosen the architects Gillies, Stransky, Brems & Smith, was $12 million. Sahara Construction was the only contractor that came close to the specified budget. Their cost per square foot for construction was higher than the next closest bid, but the efficiency of design was much greater.

The staffing requirements, or number of people required to operate the jail, was about half of that proposed by the other two contractors. Building a jail is the least expensive part of the process. Maintaining and operating such a facility costs much more than the actual construction over the long haul. At the projected efficiencies, the county will have saved around $12 million in the first five years of operation of the jail. That is the entire cost of the jail.

In checking jail construction costs around the country, our corrections administrator determined that for a similarly sized jail the costs were anywhere from $16 million to $25 million. Even with delays caused by soil problems, Sahara Construction is on schedule and within budget.

Washington County has a contract with Sahara Construction for the building of the jail, and all of our dealings are with them. We do not deal directly with their architects. There is no case of conflict of interest; to me it is simply a case of economics. Our choice was to pay $17 or $18 million for a facility that was twice as expensive to operate, or $12 million (the budgeted amount) and have half the operating costs.

The jail is also designed to be easily added to if the need ever arises. It appears to me that the competitors for jail contract, who did not want to be identified in the AP article, could not compete so they throw mud.