Courthouse bids come in over budget

Nov. 1—Daviess County officials will have to do some squeezing to fit the proposed courthouse renovation project into a $12 million budget cap.

The county has opened bids for the project but officials say those bids, on their face, are about $2 million more than the money appropriated.

"The numbers came in relatively good. They are workable and I think once we get out the pencil, we will be able to shave off some of the costs," said President of the Daviess County Commissioner Nathan Gabhart. "We knew we were going to have to cut. There will be some things we will have to cut out, figure in some contingency. Overall, we feel good. If you put in all of the alternatives and all of the soft-costs we are about $1.9 million over budget. Those alternate projects are things we do not have to do. Those are things that can wait and do down the road."

"Most of the bids I was pleased with but we are still over budget. We only had one bid for the general contractor, and it was higher than our estimate," said commissioner Michael Taylor. "Including the adds, I think we will be close. It did come in over our cap. We have taken the bids under advisement so that the we know exactly where the numbers stand."

Taber-Owens, a Washington based company, submitted a bid of $6,974,205 for the general trades section of the project, which is the largest part of the work.

"I am glad to see a local contractor bidding on that. With only one bidding we don't know if we got a really good bid or not," said Taylor. "I think all of the numbers that came in on the different contracts were pretty good and close to the engineer's estimate, but the main bid was over our estimate and that pushed it over budget."

"My biggest surprise was that we only received one bid on the largest component of the project. We had been assured that there would be several companies making bids," said Gabhart. "It is someone local and I think that is wonderful. I have been a commissioner for nine years and I have always contended that if we could use local vendors for every project that would be wonderful, but the quality and the cost have to be competitive. The good news is that we have that with the local bidder. With the size of this project, I don't see why more regional companies didn't bid."

The county's construction manager, Garmong, had lined up several of those contractors for the pre-construction conference but none of them submitted bids, saying they had other projects that would not allow them time to work on the courthouse.

The general trades contract included five alternates that mostly involved exterior work. Those added almost $275,000 to the total project.

Apparent low bids on other parts of the contract included Geyer Fire Protection of Indianapolis for a fire suppression system at $367,000. Alstadt Plumbing put in the apparent low plumbing bid at $428,990. Evansville-based Melkay Construction presented the low bids for the mechanical at $1,195,447, and for the electrical at $1,264,900.

"We are going to approach this like the private sector," said Gabhart. "We are going to do things simultaneously. We are going to start whittling on the bids we have. We are going to build this like we are broke and make sure we get our money's worth."

Contract awards are expected to come at the next commissioners' meeting on Nov. 14 and it appears that even if the county cannot bite off the entire project right away, they should be able to get the bulk of it started this year.

"I think the numbers are close enough that we will be doing something at the courthouse, so we will close and move most of the people out and over to the annex and the security center," said Taylor.

"The new hanger at the airport is ready to go. I talked with Hudson's and they are ready to start moving stuff," said Gabhart. "The annex basement should be ready in November."