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$18 million cost of Porter County’s highway garage raises questions


The planned new Porter County Highway Garage, as well as major renovations to the Porter County Jail, are halfway through the design phase, with cost estimates coming in. The Porter County Council Tuesday evening approved $3.3 million for consulting fees and $3 million for contractual services between the two. projects.

The potential price tag for the highway garage has been controversial, and on Tuesday Porter County Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, asked Porter County Prosecutor Scott McClure, who advises and represents the Porter County Commissioners, for a cost estimate of the garage as well as the garage itself. how much money might be available for other capital improvements, such as renovations to the jail and Porter County Juvenile Detention Center.

“I believe that number is $18 million total,” McClure said of the highway garage price tag, explaining that the figure also includes soft costs such as a combination of furniture and construction costs. “We can probably come back within 30 days and say that was Skillman’s estimate.”

These estimates are also made for prisons. Rivas asked if this process would include any significant needs in the final cut.

“Will it meet every need in the prison? No,” McClure replied. “Do I believe we’re on track to get to a majority of A’s? Yes.”

McClure explained that the process is ranked as A, B and C levels according to the importance of all needs. Those needs and wants are then reduced to the $18 million limit the law sets for any project within the bond.

The $25 million bond netted $24.5 million after fees and management costs. When the $18 million allocated for the garage is subtracted, $6.5 million remains for the prison.

But that may not be all the county ultimately spends on the jail renovation, as the law allows and the county does not rule out the possibility of a second bond issue 366 days after the first. The cap for any individual project in this second bond would be $18.3 million, McClure said.

“Everyone who’s been there knows it’s a giant,” McClure said. “Everything is very expensive in prison.”

As for the highway garage, McClure said the $18 million includes architects’ costs, soft costs and contingency budgeting. Actual construction costs will likely fall between $13.5 million and $14 million, he said.

“Will this back us into a corner and make us unable to do the JDC?” Rivas wanted to know. He has repeatedly expressed concern over the past year that the safety of staff working at the prison and the JDC would outweigh any capital needs.

McClure said there will likely be $7 million remaining from the second bond after renovations to the jail are completed.

Commissioner Chairman Jim Biggs, R-North, defended the cost of the highway garage in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon.

“To me, it doesn’t make sense to spend millions of dollars on a facility that, at the end of the day, can’t do its job,” he said, noting that $30 million worth of heavy equipment is currently sitting there. Outside of existing facility.

He said the county can’t afford to replace snowplow trucks, which cost more than $300,000, every six or seven years because they’re rusty. Referencing the pruning process McClure mentioned, he explained that there are meetings almost every week about the county’s progress on the Memorial Opera House, Highway Garage and jail renovations.

“It’s not uncommon to see this happen so often on projects like this, but we try to keep the cost low.

“The people asking the most questions about this seem to be the same people who are willing to spend $10 million on the Memorial Opera House, which doesn’t even provide any of our basic services,” Biggs said. “Hypocrisy is numbing.”

Shelley Jones is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.


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