J&S Construction chosen as construction manager for Putnam County Jail repairs

September 5, 2011

Herald-Citizen - Friday, Sept. 2, 2011

PUTNAM COUNTY -- The Putnam County Commission has voted to commit up to $1 million to repair, renovate or replace the HVAC, or heating, ventilation and air conditioning, system at the Putnam County Justice Center, the major culprit behind the jail's recently failed inspection -- and it's an emergency commitment commissioners are hoping will show a good-faith effort at a looming decertification hearing for the jail next week.

The county agreed last night to enter into a professional services agreement with J&S Construction in Cookeville to oversee the necessary work. J&S had made a presentation to the land and facilities subcommittee earlier this week and will act as the construction manager for the project.

A Tennessee Corrections Institute reinspection in August revealed a punch list of must-fix items, including missing tile, leaking water lines, broken cell windows, etc., had not been corrected from when the jail was first walked through earlier this summer. Decertification was recommended.

Most of those issues have been corrected or are in the process of repair, said maintenance director Dennis McBroom -- except for the HVAC system. It's contributing to mold and other issues at the facility.

If the problems aren't corrected -- and the jail is decertified -- Putnam would be unable to house state inmates and, therefore, would lose $750,000-775,000 worth of annual revenue from the state, Sheriff David Andrews said.

"If the air conditioning unit is fixed, that's going to be a major lick to solving our problems," Andrews said. "There's a lot of work that's being done. Obviously there's more to be done. Some of the fix has been temporary, and I don't say that to be critical, I say that because if the air conditioning is not fixed, we'll be right back in the same boat."

The motion approved last night, to repair, renovate or replace the heating and air, was crafted during another land and facilities subcommittee meeting, which was just held before the full commission special-called meeting convened.

The $1 million commitment will "address all deficiencies and repair all items noted in the recent inspection reports," the motion read. The county executive is "authorized to enter into a professional services contract with J&S Construction Inc. to be construction manager as to the needed repairs."

As the construction manager, J&S will assemble a team to assess the justice center's needs, obtain construction bids from subcontractors and oversee the entire process.

Of the $1 million, nearly half the money, $450,000, will come from the capital projects fund, or cash the county already has on hand. The other $550,000, if needed, will come with the issuance of a capital outlay note.

If the capital outlay note is issued, it will be paid back during a period no longer than three years.

Commissioners are hoping that the commitment will be enough for TCI -- the TCI board will vote whether or not to decertify Putnam County's jail on Wednesday.

"I'd recommend (we) borrow that (money) from debt service, basically borrowing from ourselves," District 2 Commissioner Bob Duncan said during the land and facilities meeting. "If you want to change the funding source later in time, we can certainly do that, but what TCI is looking for is a funding commitment. TCI is looking for how we're going to fund it."

"We want to make sure everyone's clear...there's no tax increase involved in this," said District 6 Commissioner and land and facilities chair Chris Savage.

While the motion received unanimous support from the full commission in a 22-0 vote -- Commissioners Steve Pierce and Eris Bryant were absent -- some did have questions.

For its work, J&S is traditionally paid a percentage of the project cost, said Johnny Stites, CEO of J&S. But the percentage for the county jail project was not known as of last night, a big factor in the decision that some commissioners equated to a blank check.

"Is it going to be 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent, 5 percent?" asked District 5 Commissioner Terry Randolph. "I'm just a little uncomfortable. And, like I said, it's a great company, I've worked with these people before and I've worked with construction management before. I would just like to know what we're going to be charged."

Stites said that the percentage will be determined once an assessment is complete and a scope of work is outlined. As far as completing the assessment, he estimated it would cost less than $10,000.

"You'll know ahead of time how much money you're getting ready to spend before you spend it," Stites said. "We don't have a clue what we're going to do over there (at the justice center). We haven't been authorized to go to the jail to assess anything yet. That's the only reason why we haven't set a percentage."

With last night's approval, Stites said he would start assembling his team of architects and engineers today. He'll meet with the sheriff and other parties to get the process started.

"And I'm absolutely comfortable it's something you'll be very pleased with. If not, kick us out," he said.

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