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  • Writer's pictureBruce Mattare

Good News: Looks Like We Have a Win for Taxpayers

As many of you know, I've expressed a lot of concern over the Justice Center Expansion project. Mostly because up until today, we never had an accurate total project cost.

That's right...we broke ground in September and only now do we have a cost we can count on. The total project is expected to come in around $36 million +/-. That's good news for taxpayers!

Where Did the Savings Come From?

The short answer is it happened with the construction company. The third (and biggest) bid package came in significantly lower than originally estimated last March. All of our savings were with the construction company.

The original estimate was for about $35 million and their final numbers came in around $30.4 million. It was a big difference...but that was only construction costs.

What Are the Additional Costs Outside of Construction?

The big one is called "soft costs" and it usually equals about 20% to 30% of your total construction costs. Those costs include items, like:

  • Furniture

  • Architectural Services

  • Testing

  • Permits

  • Legal Services

  • and more.

For the Justice Center Expansion project, today we were given a total soft cost estimate of $5 million and another $1 million in contingency for unexpected expenses. This is the first time the Board was provided with an educated soft cost estimate to add on top of the construction cost. All of the other estimates being provided were from staff who never managed a construction project this big.

We Dodged a Bullet, But Here's What's Important

You see, a project like this shouldn't contain so much uncertainty. Having this in mind in the future, we should be given realistic numbers from the beginning by competent professionals.

In March of 2023 the BoCC had a meeting titled, "project costs," but in reality it turned out to be a construction cost meeting. The expected construction cost was estimated at about $35 million.

All three Commissioners agreed to proceed with the understanding that there would be another meeting where final numbers would be presented BEFORE breaking ground, so we could allocate an amount from savings toward this project (FYI: we still haven't allocated all of the necessary funds toward this project).

That follow-up meeting with Commissioners never happened prior to breaking ground.

The Secret to a Well-Functioning Future Board of County Commissioners

It's simple.

The entire Board is given all of the available information so they can make good decisions. Commissioners should want (and seek) to ensure that ALL of the other Commissioners have the latest and greatest information when making a decision...any decision!

Today we were lucky. The construction cost numbers could easily have remained high, or -- worse -- gone up if inflation had continued.

I hope we learned how important it is to have good communication among the Commissioners and that we can learn from this.

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