Wilkes County commissioners on Tuesday night heard from a second company wanting to be hired as construction manager at risk for building a new county jail.
The written proposal from Jefferson-based Vannoy Construction Co. calls for building a 52,000-square-foot jail with a construction operating budget of $175 to $190 per square foot, equating to a range of $9.1 million to $9.88 million.
However, Vannoy Senior Vice President Bill Blank told commissioners, “We think we can deliver it at $180 per square foot, but we hope less.” Blank said fuel costs were one key variable.
Vannoy’s proposal includes building a 40,000-square-foot detention area and a 12,000-square-foot area for booking, food service and administration.
Comments of commissioners indicate they don’t agree on whether to hire Vannoy or Columbia, S.C.-based M.B. Kahn Construction Co. Inc. as construction manager at risk for the project, or go the more traditional route of seeking general contractor bids.
It’s the latest crossroads for a project that has seen various twists and turns while in formal planning stages since December 2006.
Kahn officials discussed their proposal with all five Wilkes commissioners on Sept. 18. No action was taken, but County Attorney Tony Triplett said at the Sept. 18 meeting that the Kahn contract was ready to be approved.
Khan’s proposal has similar per square foot cost and size estimates for the new jail, but Khan officials proposed that their company be paid 3.5 percent of the construction cost. Vannoy officials proposed 2.5 percent.
The construction manager at risk’s payment and architectural and engineering fees are in addition to the per square foot construction cost.
In July, commissioners unanimously agreed to borrow up to $11 million for building a new jail. Financing plans, still awaiting final N.C. Local Government Commission approval, call for paying off the debt at 3 percent interest with annual payments of $960,000 for 20 years. Schematic plans for the new jail are in Raleigh awaiting approval.
Commissioner Charles Sink asked representatives of Vannoy Construction, a general contractor for 60 years, what they thought about the construction manager at risk option. At the Sept. 18 meeting, Sink said he wasn’t sure it was the right way to go.
Blank said projects with a construction manager at risk are steadily increasing, “particularly (those with) technical complexity because you can more easily pick someone (subcontractors) with expertise.”
A construction manager at risk, while essentially acting as a general contractor, would be hired under a maximum overall jail project cost locked in with a contract and work closely with commissioners.
Blank said it would result in less administrative work for county officials.
Mark Vannoy, president of Vannoy Construction, said that as construction manager at risk for the jail project, his company would “pre-qualify” subcontractors before they submitted bids.
Vannoy said this would mean fewer problems and delays during construction and help make sure local companies had a fair chance of being hired as subcontractors.
Commission Chairman Gary D. Blevins on Tuesday night repeated a goal of building a new jail as soon as possible and said it could be completed by the spring of 2014.
Currently, 46 male and five female inmates from Wilkes are being housed in the Ashe County Jail due to lack of space in Wilkes jail facilities. Five female inmates from Wilkes are in the Lincoln County Jail. The Wilkes County Jail in Wilkesboro currently is housing 63 male inmates and the Women’s Detention Center in North Wilkesboro has 12 inmates. This year’s county budget includes about $300,000 for housing inmates out of county.
Vannoy said his company hasn’t built a jail in the capacity of construction manager at risk, but it was general contractor for the new Ashe and Avery county jails and worked with Hemphill-Randel Associates of Charlotte on the Ashe jail project.
He said they worked closely with the Ashe and Avery sheriff’s departments to meet their needs and make sure they were ready to operate the new jails when they opened.
In July, commissioners unanimously approved an architectural and engineering agreement with Hemphill-Randel that calls for building a 240-bed jail next to the county courthouse in Wilkesboro and paying the company $760,000.
Vannoy Construction was construction manager at risk when the current Watauga and Southeast Guilford high schools were built, and has senior management experience from constructing buildings at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.
Vannoy was general contractor for the Wilkes County Courthouse, Wilkes County Library, the John A. Walker Community Center and Lowe’s Hall at Wilkes Community College, Millers Creek Fire Department and numerous churches, schools and commercial buildings in Wilkes in the last 50 years.
The company has been “a contractor of choice” for Lowe’s Companies Inc. for over 15 years, said Vannoy.
He said Vannoy Construction employs 21 Wilkes residents, but has employed more people from Wilkes in the past. Vannoy said the company and the Vannoy family pay over $65,000 annually in Wilkes County property taxes.
The company pays the county $2,800 annually for a ground lease at the Wilkes County Airport, as well as an average of more than $100,000 annually on airplane fuel the last two years.
He said Vannoy Construction has made substantial donations to Ebenezer Children’s Home near North Wilkesboro and other nonprofits in Wilkes.
The family-owned company was started by James R. “Jim” Vannoy in 1952.