Polk approves construction contract for law enforcement center

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Aerial view of the site of the future Law Enforcement Center. (Photo by Johnny Duncan)

Aerial view of the site of the future Law Enforcement Center. (Photo by Johnny Duncan)

Groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for Dec. 3

COLUMBUS– Polk County Commissioners gave their last major approval last week to construct a new law enforcement center, which will include a new jail and sheriff’s office just outside Columbus.

Commissioners met Nov. 21 and awarded the construction contract to Cooper Construction out of Hendersonville for $9,603,350.

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The sheriff’s office and board of commissioners has scheduled a groundbreaking ceremony for Saturday, Dec. 3 at the site at 222 Park Street in Columbus at 11:30 a.m.

Guest speaker will be David Guice, N.C. Commissioner of the Division of Adult Corrections and Juvenile Justice. The public is invited to attend the groundbreaking.

The county received four construction bids, with the lowest bid being about $800,000 more than anticipated. Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said he, the jail administrator, building inspector and Moseley Architects sat down and removed $332,560 worth of items out of the bid with the contractor. Pittman said about $100,000 is equipment that the county will eventually purchase so the true savings is approximately $232,000.

During their Nov. 21 meeting, commissioners went through the list of items individually that were reduced in the construction contract.

“This is the last component of this facility,” Pittman said. “We’ve closed the loop through a lot of hard work from Sandra (finance director Sandra Hughes), from Jana (county attorney Jana Berg) on a lot of these elements but this is the last thing we have to do to start construction.”

Commissioner chair Michael Gage asked if Pittman remembered that in late spring he asked whether they could get the jail under contract before he and commissioners Ted Owens and Keith Holbert left office.

“And the answer is yes,” Gage said, “because of you and Jana and all your staff working hard. It’s amazing what you can do.”

Gage said the county had a lot of folks working along the way on making the new law enforcement center possible. He said commissioner Ray Gasperson working with the property owner to get the property was huge and that all the commissioners put their differences aside to do good things for the county.

“It’s something we can all be proud of,” said Gage.

Pittman updated commissioners that the county closed on the loan and the property last week.

He also said the development of the property is ongoing and he thinks that will be complete before Dec. 15 with construction beginning really quickly.

Developers are getting the water tap hooked up, the grading over the bridge is in, and they are putting gravel across the roads now, according to Pittman. Pittman said Cooper Construction is ready to begin as soon as the property is ready.

Commissioners also approved budget amendments last week pertaining to the law enforcement center budget. One of the amendments was to pull $971,579 from the county’s fund balance for the purchase of land not assigned to the law enforcement complex. Hughes said that part of the land is not considered collateral for financing.

The county is taking out a $13.5 million loan for the law enforcement center. Commissioners approved a two-cent tax increase this fiscal year to pay the debt service and are expecting to approve another two-cent tax increase over the next two fiscal years for a total of a six-cent tax increase over three years.

The new jail will be 60 beds and will house both females and juveniles, which the current jail does not. The current jail has 25 beds.

The new law enforcement center is being constructed off Hwy. 108 adjacent to the Milliken plant in Columbus. The property is between Park Street and Milliken with the county purchasing property both off Park Street and adjacent to Milliken.

Construction of the facility is expected to take approximately one year.