'Guaranteed maximum price' accepted for jail construction

May 15—EPHRATA — The maximum cost for building the Grant County Jail and Grant County Sheriff's Office — just for construction, not equipping it or paying construction fees — will be $131.56 million. The Grant County Commissioners approved an agreement for the "guaranteed maximum price" for construction Tuesday.

That's about $3 million less than the estimated cost for construction made in April, which was about $134.21 million. Grant County Central Services Director Tom Gaines said in a separate interview that reflects changes in the construction market.

"We actually expect that number to come down some more," Gaines said.

The approval of the GMP bid allows the rest of the budding process to go forward, Gaines said.

"We still have a lot of work to bid out," he said, and in an increasingly competitive market, project managers expect the costs to decrease.

The GMP is for construction costs only, but while construction is the biggest part of the project, it's not the only part. The state charges sales tax on construction projects, which will be about $11 million, Gaines said. That's included in the soft costs. Permits are required for most parts of the process, and most of those charge fees; those too are part of the soft costs. So are all furnishings, building fixtures, equipment, buying the property and meeting land use requirements. Gaines said soft costs typically are equal to about 20 to 30% of the construction costs, but the actual amount is still to be determined.

"The soft cost is really hard to pin down," he said.

In answer to a question from Commissioner Cindy Carter at Tuesday's meeting, Gaines said the project budget would include $27 million in soft costs. In a later interview, he said he hoped they would be less than $25 million.

But some costs won't be known for months, or in some cases, a couple of years. He cited the example of jail bed mattresses. They won't be purchased for a couple of years, he said, and it's impossible to estimate what they will cost.

The new jail will be located on property at the intersection of State Route 282 and Nat Washington Way. Washington Department of Transportation officials have said the state will require a roundabout at that intersection. The intersection is on a list of roundabouts the DOT plans to build, but a construction date isn't scheduled. As a result, it will be constructed by the county. The estimated cost is about $4 million, which is not included in the estimate.

A lengthy discussion about costs and financing in early April ended with the commissioners setting a limit of $155.55 million for the entire project, not including the roundabout.

Commissioners issued $90 million in limited general obligation bonds in 2022. County voters approved a three-tenths of one percent increase in the county sales tax in 2019 to pay for law and justice projects, including the new jail. Gaines said the bond issue was tied to the amount the county could expect to receive in sales tax to pay them off.

But the jail project exceeds that, and county officials are still considering options to pay the difference between the $90 million in bonds already issued and the $155 million anticipated cost.

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