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April 17, 2014

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County votes to extend repair work at detention center

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Steve Marcus

An old-style pod is shown in the north tower during a tour of the Clark County Detention Center Tuesday, July 23, 2013.

Clark County Detention Center Tour

An inmate shows a gang tattoo to Metro Corrections Captain Rich Suey during a tour of the Clark County Detention Center Tuesday, July 23, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Clark County commissioners have decided to lengthen a construction project overhauling plumbing, electrical and other systems at the detention center by one year in order to cut down costs after the lowest bid came in $10 million over the initial estimate.

The issue: Commissioners considered three options for dealing with the rapidly escalating costs for needed repairs at the jail.

The vote: The commission voted unanimously to extend the construction schedule by 15 months, the least costly of the three options.

What it means: The commission will vote on Oct. 15 to approve a contract with Sletten Construction to begin repairing and replacing building systems throughout most of the Clark County Detention Center’s North Tower.

Widespread problems at the 31-year-old jail building were unearthed in a 2010 report, and a first round of repairs to the kitchen and basement costing $23 million were completed in May.

County staff estimated construction costs for the second phase of the building at $68 million, an amount that could be covered with cash on hand the county had saved up from a .02-cent property tax allocation they receive for capital projects.

But contractor bids came in significantly higher than county estimates, with Sletten Construction registering the low bid of $78 million.

Further complicating matters is overcrowding at the jail, which will require more inmates to be displaced during construction.

Commissioners opted to extend the construction schedule — closing only one quarter of the jail at a time — to minimize the disruption to inmates, saving $32 million it would have cost to transport and house them at other facilities if the project had been done under the original 33-month timeline, which would have shut down half of the jail at a given time.

A third option would have reduced the scope of the renovation to cover only 70 percent of the building at a cost of $66 million, but it received little consideration from commissioners because of the high cost to finish the remaining repairs later on.

By choosing to extend the construction schedule, the county will pay $22 million more than its initial estimate, an amount that will be financed with future revenues from the property tax capital allocation.

"Originally the idea was to try to remove enough scope out of the project so that you could still fund it with existing funds and still accomplish the goal,” said Todd Fasulo, a Metro Police deputy chief in charge of the jail. “The problem with that is, when you ... try to remove scope and still meet operational and safety concerns for a jail facility, it sometimes doesn’t work.”

Tuesday’s discussion of overcrowding at the jail, where inmate populations have increased 11 percent since the start of the year, set the stage for what could be a more pointed debate at the commission’s meeting later this month.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak asked for an agenda item specifically addressing overcrowding at the jail, and the state prison system’s role in causing the problem.

Pre-sentencing reports for inmates are supposed to be completed within 45 days, but that rarely happens, leading to lengthy stays at the jail, Sisolak said.

“If we have to sue the state for them not complying with what the agreement was to get these parole and probation reports done quicker, that’s what we have to do,” Sisolak said. “Ultimately, it’s being taken off the (inmate’s) sentence, but we’re paying for it in Clark County as opposed to where it should be paid for out of the prison budget. We just can’t keep doing it.”

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