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Capturing savings

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | May 11, 2023 5:01 PM

EPHRATA — Grant County officials and contractors working on the construction of a new Grant County Jail will meet next week for what Grant County Central Services Director Tom Gaines called a value engineering exercise with the goal of cutting costs.

“We are already starting to look at value engineering (in the design plans),” Gaines said.

Grant County Commissioner Rob Jones cited the example of building a concrete wall, looking to see if one method is more cost-effective than another, without sacrificing functionality or durability.

It’s hoped that being methodical will save taxpayer dollars and other efficiencies.

“We’re going room by room through those drawings,” Gaines said. “We’re trying to make sure we have accounted for everything we can, and we’re going to see what happens.”

Grant County Commissioners voted in August 2022 to issue up to $90 million in general obligation bonds to pay for law and justice projects, including the jail. That followed the approval of a three-tenths of one percent sales tax increase for law and justice operations by Grant County voters in 2019.

Jones said the county also has about $10 million in available funds.

The plans will be reviewed by the project contractors once any additional cost-cutting options have been identified. Their job will be to prepare an estimate of the project cost, which is the basis of the guaranteed maximum price. The GMP is the maximum the contractor can charge for the project.

Gaines said the goal is to ensure county officials can build the jail and remodel the existing law and justice building for the $100 million available. Gaines said county officials don’t know yet if $100 million will pay for the project as designed, given rising construction costs.

“It remains to be seen,” he said. “We’re hoping it does.”

County voters approved a three-tenths of 1% increase in the county’s sales tax in 2019, with the money to go toward law and justice projects including a new jail. Grant County Commissioners approved the sale of up to $90 million in limited tax general obligation bonds for the project in July 2022.

Jones said the contractors should have a GMP proposal by early summer.

Site preparation will begin this summer regardless, he said. County officials purchased the old Ephrata Raceway track, 14156 Road B.3 NW, for the jail site. Gaines said crews will remove the track and grandstands, level and prepare the ground, and install the utility lines.

“We will be doing that this summer. We are still hoping to break ground in early fall,” Gaines said.

If the GMP is higher than the available funds, the next step would be to review the design again.

“You have to look at those drawings and say, ‘What do we cut?’” Gaines said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.