Excavation for the first phase of construction at the new state prison north of Gunnison is about half completed. Some 150,000 cubic yards of dirt have been excavated.

Only one contractor is on the site now, but in six months there will be four or five, said Doug Thorpe, general contractor for Phase I. He said the dirt-moving project is a little ahead of schedule. Dirt is being moved from one area and compacted in another.

Pipe is being laid for storm drains as well as for the sewer system.

Thorpe said excavation requires blasting of rock to construct five basement areas that will be housing facilities for prisoners.

The sewer system is about 40 percent complete. Work on the water and steam heating systems will be completed in September.

The contractor said a lot of the dirt is being removed to bedrock, then dumped back in, allowing for better compaction of the soil. It is then built back to the proper grade.

Work has also begun on numerous roads that will be located inside and outside the prison compound.

Mid-July will mark the next bid opening, for construction of the main service building. It will include the kitchen and a laundry. Officials want these facilities built first so they will be ready as soon as housing is completed and prisoners can be moved to the complex.

The service building will cost about $3 million.