On Thursday following a closed session, the Dane County Board of Supervisors approved over $700,000 in additional fees to a consultant working on the $148 million jail consolidation project.
The board approved two contract adjustments called change orders. The first adds $428,900 in fees and the second adds $288,404. In an unusual process, the first contract change asks for payment for work that’s already been completed by the consultant Mead & Hunt.
“It is most certainly not something that has gone through the normal course of events or process for change orders, and frankly, I find it pretty aggravating,” Supervisor Patrick Miles, District 34, said.
Still, he was among the 21 supervisors voting in favor of making the contract changes. Miles said county staff has assessed how to prevent the same problem in the future.
The board’s vote followed multiple discussions in committees and over two hours of public comment Thursday.
Mead & Hunt was charged with bringing the project in budget after a more than $20 million budget overrun was made public last September. David Way, principal engineer at Mead & Hunt, previously said it was difficult to estimate ahead of time how much it would cost the consultant to analyze the design and development changes necessary to bring the project in budget.
The second change order will fund design services to implement the cost-saving measures identified in the first change order. This work has not been completed yet.
“They spent an extra $700,000 to save over $22 million,” said Supervisor Andrew Schauer, District 21, voting in favor. “If we didn’t make these changes, this whole project would have come up $22 million over budget, which is unacceptable.”
Plans for the jail include consolidating the jail’s three facilities by building a new tower next to the downtown Public Safety Building. Once the project is complete, the part of the jail located on the sixth and seventh floors of the City-County Building will close, the Ferris Center on the south side will be vacated and all jail facilities will be downtown.
Supervisor Yogesh Chawla, District 6, was among the 15 supervisors who voted against approving the contract changes.
“We had a contractor perform work that was not approved and is retroactively billing us,” Chawla said. “This is a terrible business practice. Regardless of the politics of the project or how people feel, this is unethical billing work.”
According to an opinion issued by corporation counsel Marcia Mackenzie in February, “Mead & Hunt must be paid because it performed the work under a reasonable belief that the county requested it, and the county obtained the benefit of the work.”
“Mead & Hunt performed the necessary engineering and made recommendations for changes that will reduce expenditures so that the budget will not be exceeded,” the opinion states. “The county can (and will) use those recommendations to meet its budget. Therefore, the county has received the value of the work.”
The following supervisors also voted against the contract changes: Michele Ritt, District 18; Sara Smith, District 24; Shelia Stubbs, District 23; Heidi Wegleitner, District 2; Mike Bare, District 32; Cecely Castillo, District 4; Carl Chenoweth, District 35; Michele Doolan, District 28; Elizabeth Doyle, District 1; Anthony Gray, District 14; Elena Haasl, District 5; Holly Hatcher, District 26; Tim Kiefer, District 25; and Teran Peterson, District 19.
Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to email@example.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.