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Jail expansion costs to be dialed back after bids came in high

Mountaineer - 6/21/2023

Jun. 21—Haywood County has a plan in hand to bring its beleaguered jail project back on board within its estimated $21.5 million budget.

Monday, the county commissioners approved a $47,720 contract with Vannoy Construction to provide construction manager at risk preconstruction services for the detention center expansion project. The motion also authorized County Manager Bryant Morehead to execute the contract.

The jail project was delayed in February after bids came in $7 million higher than was estimated.

Haywood County leaders have been discussing the need for a jail expansion for at least a decade. Now-retired Sheriff Greg Christopher was faced with an at-capacity situation when he took office in 2013 and began researching costs for an upgrade, which came in at $1 million. Funds weren't available, so he took a different route to reduce recidivism, by expanding the jail ministry and helping start Haywood Pathways Center.

By 2020, the situation turned dire, and a prerelease program whereby offenders were released from until their court date wasn't going well.

By November 2021, the commissioners had plans for a $16.4 million jail addition in hand, and project architects were interviewed in April 2022.

This February, commissioners locked in financing for the $21.5 million project, but when the lone bid was submitted, it was for $28.1 million, even though the bid amount was capped at $25 million.

At the urging of the county's architect, the board rejected the bid.

Dan Mace, the vice president of Charlotte-based Moseley Architects, suggested an alternative route, a bid process called construction manager at risk.

Under this method, rather than making bidders go through a formal pre-qualification, the process casts a wide net asking contractors to respond to different elements of the design with a proposal and references, Mace said.

Interested contractors will be asked to point out places where costs can be reduced, negotiate with subcontractors or put in allowances for those willing to hold bid prices through the duration of the project.

Now that a preconstruction contract is in sight, Vannoy representatives will work closely with both the county and the architect to have bids on the street by August, Morehead explained Monday night at a regular board of commissioners meeting.

"There will be conversations concerning different design elements necessary to generate a bid that will come in at a guaranteed maximum price," Morehead said.

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