The process has begun to build a new Dickinson County jail and renovate the existing courthouse.
County voters approved the $13.5 million bond issue during the Aug. 7 election that will fund building a new jail and sheriff’s office, renovating the current courthouse and improving, equipping, furnishing and completing other things involved in the project.
Dickinson County Administrator Brad Homman told commissioners Thursday that a planning meeting took place Monday, Aug. 20 with county staff and representatives from Goldberg Group Architects of St. Joseph, Mo., Loyd Builders of Ottawa and Piper Jaffray & Co., of Leawood, the financing company.
Early spring start
“Right now the target date on getting bid documents done is the first of January. They feel that is very realistic. Put it out for bid sometime in January and accept the bids hopefully by the end of January,” Homman said.
If bids are accepted by the first part of February 2019, construction could possibly begin sometime between the end of February and the first to middle of April.
“The rough completion date would be the fall of 2020 for everything,” Homman said.
Phase 1 of the project, building a new jail, will take an estimated 14 to 16 months. Phase 2, renovating the existing courthouse, will take approximately six months although some renovation work can occur while the new building is under construction.
Homman said that Josh Walker, president of Loyd Builders, reminded planners the more time his people are on site, the more expensive the project will be.
“If there are things that could be done in the courthouse the same time the jail is being built that would shave off some of that time and expense,” Homman said. “So that’s something we’ll try to do.”
Homman related that Piper Jaffray representatives said interest rates are “pretty decent at about 3.85 percent.”
“They don’t expect them to be up more in the next 30 days or so as we get things locked in,” Homman said.
The bonds can be issued in one of two different time frames: Half can be issued now and the second half a year from now or the bonds can all be issued at one time.
He and county Finance Director Janelle Dockendorf said their recommendation is to issue the bonds all at one time to “get it taken care of and the interest rate locked in at 3.85 percent,” Homman said, explaining they needed guidance from the commission.
Typically, entities use the half and half option in situations where experts believe interest rates will either go down or stay the same. “We don’t think that’s the case, obviously,” he said.
Commissioner LaVerne Myers asked what determines the interest rate.
Homman said there are a number of variables, but a lot depends on the county’s bond rating which is as yet unknown.
“That will come from a bond rating company. They hope to have that in the next couple weeks. A triple A rating — being the best — would give us the best percentage rate. If we’re double A or double A minus it starts going down, which means a little more risk and a little higher percentage rate,” Homman said.
Commission Vice-Chairman Lynn Peterson, who was conducting the meeting in the absence of Chairman Craig Peterson, said the 3.85 percent is an estimate and it could come in higher or lower on the day the bonds are sold.
Homman said two resolutions starting the process will be ready for the commission Thursday after the county’s Public Building Commission (PBC) meets.
The PBC will issue the bonds to finance the project. The PBC is a group of citizens appointed by the commission and authorized by statute to issue bonds for a building project allowing the commission to construct or renovate a building. The PBC becomes the owner of the project and building and the county lease-purchases it from the PBC.
Using the PBC as a funding mechanism rather than the county itself means the project doesn’t go against the county’s debt limit and doesn’t show up as county debt.
Goldberg Group Architects (GGA) will begin providing information it has put together since early 2016 to Loyd Builders, the construction firm that will handle the project.
“They’ll be working together to get the final bid information together,” Homman said.
In December 2015, county commissioners selected the team of GGA and Loyd to handle the project. But until now, Loyd Builders has not been involved.
In preparation for construction, an ALTA (American Land Title Association) land survey will be completed to ensure no hazardous material or other debris is underground at the jail construction site.
The jail will connect to the east side of the current courthouse.
“We don’t want to discover a landfill or something of that nature,” Homman said.
“If that comes up clear like we expect it will be, we will just move forward from there and not pay to have the level 1 environmental work done that would be rather expensive,” he said. “Everybody at the (planning) meeting was comfortable with that.”
Paperwork has been submitted to the City of Abilene requesting the vacation of Court Street, the one-block street that runs east of the courthouse between it and the County Attorney’s office.
The new jail extends onto the area where the street is located and the County Attorney’s office will be demolished.
Other than the street, the land is all owned by Dickinson County. In 2015, the county purchased two vacant houses that were located east of the County Attorney’s office.
The houses were declared as surplus and interested members of the public were given the opportunity to bid on items they wanted out of the house. The houses were demolished during the summer of 2015 and since then, the area has been used for overflow courthouse parking.
Commissioner Myers said he was pleased so much had been accomplished in the days since voters approved the bond issue.
“Hopefully, I’ll feel more comfortable when we get interest rates locked in,” Myers said.
Contact Kathy Hageman at email@example.com.