GREENFIELD — Contractors recently broke ground on a road that will lead to the entrance of the new Hancock County Jail east of Greenfield, signifying the start of about a year and a half of construction.

The jail, which will be built on 20 acres of county-owned land north of U.S. 40 between County Roads 400E and 500E, should cost about $38 million for all construction and contracting fees, according to RQAW, a Fishers-based architecture firm in charge of the building’s design.

Bids were due at the end of August. About 45 companies bid on 13 sections of the jail project, Dustin Frye, director of construction services for RQAW, told the Hancock County Board of Commissioners earlier in September. The “good bid day” resulted in a lower guaranteed maximum price — the cost of construction — than the county first received, said John Jessup, president of the commissioners.

Jessup said an initial guaranteed maximum price the commissioners saw at the end of July came in about $2 million higher than the now locked-in price of $32.2 million, which Garmong Construction Services, the project’s construction manager, announced to the commissioners at last Tuesday’s meeting. The commissioners, Jessup said, chose to wait a few weeks to accept a new guaranteed maximum price of construction until the bid due date, hoping the price would lessen in that time.

That risk paid off, Jessup said. He attributed the better price for the project to the state of the economy, timing before the winter construction season and interest in the project from contractors.

While the guaranteed maximum price amounts to $32.2 million, that’s not the total cost of the entire project. According to a breakdown of costs provided by RQAW to county officials, the $38 million also includes $3.3 million for design and owner’s representative fees for the jail and road construction; $1.3 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment; $889,000 spent from the county’s motor vehicle highway fund for the concrete access road; and an estimated $295,000 for water and sewer utilities.

The commissioners also authorized a notice to proceed for contractors to start dirt work and build the jail’s concrete pad before winter begins, Jessup said. The facility could open as early as March 2021.

The county will pay for the jail project using local income tax funding. The Hancock County Council in July voted to increase the local income tax rate from 1.74% to 1.94%, a change that will take effect Oct. 1. The county also plans to issue a revenue bond — a municipal bond that finances income-producing projects — to get funds sooner. The county received a AAA rating last month after officials met with ratings agencies to discuss the jail financing. Rating documents place the revenue bond at $40 million.

The $38 million plan comes in lower than a $55 proposal to build a downtown jail, which failed as a property tax referendum in May 2018. But the jail site outside of Greenfield city limits doesn’t include improvements to other county departments — shifting around offices for the probation department, prosecutor’s office and community corrections — or the addition of a sheriff’s office building on site.

Jessup said taxpayers will end up getting less for more with a jail outside of downtown Greenfield, a sentiment the commissioners have expressed for over a year. The board has previously placed blame on Greenfield leaders for publicly voicing opposition to the idea of building a new jail downtown.

The county has proposed issuing a $5 million general obligation bond this year to pay for some of the projects envisioned in the $55 million plan. That includes remodeling at the Hancock County Courthouse to expand the probation department; a renovation of the Hancock County Annex to add space for the prosecutor’s office and the information technology department; and to pay for sewer and water lines needed to serve about 95 acres of county-owned farmland that surrounds the site of the new jail.

It’s unknown how the county would pay to build a future sheriff’s office next to the new jail.

County commissioners have also been waiting on city officials to approve a memorandum of understanding to bring water and sewer utilities along U.S. 40 to the edge of the property near the access road. The commissioners amended the MOU that the Greenfield Board of Public Works and Safety approved in late June, and they passed a new version of the agreement in August.

Agendas for the board of works and Greenfield City Council that were sent out on Friday afternoon, however, indicated both boards will discuss the agreement during their separate meetings next week. The city and county had previously disagreed on the location of the utility lines and price of the project.
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