Jail Bids Too High

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It's too late to turn back now so Winnebago County officials have to figure out a way to deal with increasing costs on the Winnebago County Jail and Justice Center.

Members of the Finance and Public Safety Committee approved 16 of the 20 bids to build the new jail. Already, the project is $10 million over budget.

No one said it was going to be cheap to build four courtrooms, 1,212 beds, and a tunnel to connect the existing jail to the new jail. The latest estimate to build a new jail is about $138 million. That's $10 million higher than what the county originally budgeted.

Winnebago County Chair Scott Christiansen says, "We were close to $150 million so we got that down."

In order to reduce the cost some small modifications have been made to the spec plans in order to make this project affordable. But Christiansen says the county has amble funds available to cover the costs.

Christiansen says, "We're re-bidding four items hoping to get that number down so we are doing our due diligence."

We can relate to the county's financial problems because like all of us, the county has to dish out more at the pump.

Christiansen says, "Fuel, gasoline, oil, concrete has gone up tremendously and steel. So we’re feeling the affects of that."

And it's our spending that is bringing in more revenue. The one-cent sales tax was only supposed to bring in $23 million a year. This year the tax will provide the county with $26.5 million so that's an unexpected $3.5 million.

Of the 16 bids, right now 10 are locally owned companies from Rockford and Freeport. But no matter where they are from they will need about 500 workers to go from a foundation to the finished product.

Christiansen says, "In both areas we exceeded goals with minority and female workers. The workforce itself has all got to come locally unless they can't provide it."

The construction industry has also taken a hit so this project could keep many employed.
The 16 jail bids will go before the full Winnebago County Board for a final vote.