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Dane County committees continue review of jail contract changes

Dane County committees continue review of jail contract changes

Public Safety Building (copy)

Plans for the Dane County Jail include consolidating the jail’s three facilities by building a new tower next to the downtown Public Safety Building, pictured here. 

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Two Dane County committees will continue to discuss changes to a contract with a consultant on the $148 million jail redevelopment project that would add over $700,000 in fees.

The county's Public Works & Transportation and Personnel & Finance committees previously recommended approval of two contract change orders and plan to continue discussion in a closed session Thursday at 5 p.m.    

Though contract change orders are expected in construction projects, it’s unusual to see a change order for work that’s already been completed. That’s the case for the first change order, which would add $428,900 in fees to the county’s consultant, Mead & Hunt. 

“It’s not a normal process,” David Way of Mead & Hunt said. 

Mead & Hunt was charged with bringing the project in budget after a $20 million budget overrun was discovered. Way said it was difficult to to estimate the cost for that design and development work, which was conducted from late June through September. 

“At that point, we were given the charge to find ways to drive costs out of the project,” Way said. 

Way said the work included evaluating about 30 options to bring the overall project cost in budget, which required 40 people working on the analysis. This totaled an estimated 2,455 hours of work, according to a memo from the consultant. 

Todd Draper, deputy director of Public Works, said a majority of the overage came from the high cost of detention equipment and securities contracting. 

The second change order would add $288,404 in fees for design services to implement the cost saving scope reduction measures identified in the first change order. This work has not been completed yet.  

[Dane County committee recommends changing jail contract to add consultant fees]

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 completed, 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 consolidated downtown.  

Major cost saving measures identified by the consultant included reducing the height of the new tower and redistributing mechanical and electrical building support systems in addition to changing the layout of two floors of housing.

Throughout the discussion, supervisors asked questions about how the process unfolded and what led to the unusual situation regarding the first change order. Deputy Corporation Counsel Carlos Pabellon advised staff to answer in general terms because the specific circumstances regarding the change order would be "relevant to any potential litigation related to the question of liability." 

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.” 

Dozens of community members spoke at the meeting, expressing their continued disapproval of the jail project and spending more money on the design contracts. They are frustrated that county funding is being used to support a jail project rather than invest more in community services. 

“You have got to draw the line somewhere,” Jesse Bell Bern said. “Do not approve this tab.” 

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