Groundbreaking for the new Starke County Jail is still on track for November, and construction is expected to take 16 months. Project manager Scott Cherry with Merrillville-based Skillman says construction costs are around $10 million and expects the bids for the project to be extremely competitive.
“A project like this that is a nice project, it’s a large project where companies can come in and bid it and work for quite a long time, that’s always attractive. The bidding itself, the way we set it up, is going to bring in that competition inherently,” said Cherry.
Right now bid letting for the jail is set for early October.
“The contractors are hungry, they’re always hungry, but they’re not going to take something for nothing. You can only go so far with cutting fees. From our perspective, sometimes you take a job and they say it costs, but you can’t take too many of those, or you don’t stay in business,” Cherry said.
In addition to the base bid, the project includes several options, ranging from additional cells to eventually moving the circuit courtroom to the new facility. Cherry is hopeful at least some of the extras can be folded into the initial construction due to competition.
“It’s a great time to bid because we all know the economy’s been down. You don’t have these coming around very often, so I think it’s going to help. It’s going to help the market, but other stuff like fuel costs, things like that that affect pricing. We’re only as safe with prices as the next hurricane,” Cherry explained.
Cherry says Skillman will factor in as many variables as possible when they prepare the final bid documents.
“Fuel cost has a big impact on everything, so when we’re doing our estimating, as we’re going through the process, we’re trying to make sure that we account for that as much as we can. You can only project out so far, but usually through experience, when we’re wrong, which isn’t very often, we’re usually within 2 – 2.5 percent of our final design,” Cherry said.
Cherry says he will have final documents to present to the commissioners the week of Sept. 16 and will have a pre-bid meeting with all interested contractors shortly thereafter.