YAKIMA - It's back to the drawing board for Yakima County's plans to remodel its jail.
Tuesday of this week, Yakima County commissioners agreed with a staff recommendation to reject all bids for construction of the upgrade.
County officials estimated the project would cost $6.5 million but the low bid came in at about $8 million, according to Vern Redifer, director for Yakima County public services.
"All of the bids came in well above the engineer's estimates," Redifer said. "We haven't put together that much money yet to handle that big of an increase."
Yakima County hopes money to fund the jail improvements, which would improve security and create private cells for gang inmates, will come from a proposed 1 percent sales tax increase on this August's primary ballot.
The project would also include meeting a directive by L&I to replace two elevators at the jail.
If voters reject the measure, then Yakima County plans to transfer money from roads to pay for the jail project.
Redifer says higher-than expected bids for the jail upgrade reflect an improving economy.
"As the economy is picking up a little bit, contractors aren't as hungry, we're going to see bids across the board increase," he said.
Add to that the recent spike in gas and oil prices and Redifer says it's costing more to build these days.
He says the nature of the project also makes cost estimates a challenge.
"It's a difficult project to estimate because you're working with a population that can't be moved easily," Redifer said. "It will take 18 months, where if it's vacant it can be done in six months."
County Commissioner Rand Elliott is from District 3, which includes the Lower Valley, and he said the bids also have to be rejected because of a clerical error.
He said language was omitted from the county's bid documents requiring bidders to provide a list of sub-contractors. As a result, some of the bids contained the list of sub-contractors and some did not.
As for the higher-than-expected costs, Redifer says he is working with the architect to develop a new bid package.
"We're going to make some changes in the project and put it out to bid again," he said.
Possible money-saving revisions, Redifer notes, include reducing the number of alternatives contractors have to figure in the bid. He adds there may be some cost savings in how the work site is supervised.
The bottom line, Redifer says, is that the project needs to be done.
"There are issues there that need to be rectified and the sooner they are addressed the less risk the county is taking," he said. "I would hope that we could hit the street with a new bid package within 30 days."