An expansion project at the Coweta County Jail should be ready to go out for bid by early 2022.
Architectural and engineering work is currently underway for the expansion. Members of the Coweta Public Facilities Authority were given a brief update on the jail project at this week's meeting.
County public facilities staff and the architects are meeting with jail staff to make sure the direction of the current plans – which were developed last year – still suit their needs.
"That way we can get into the actual bones of the design and engineering of the project," said Mike Johnson, Coweta facilities management director. "The project is moving along quickly."
The PFA will likely issue bonds to fund the jail expansion, which is estimated to cost about $22 million. But because the actual cost won't be known until bids are in, issuing bonds may have to wait until they know just how much in bonds to issue.
Because it's a jail and the expansion includes a new kitchen and infirmary, there are a lot of specialty finishing needs that can drive up prices, said County Administrator Michael Fouts.
However, issuing bonds can take about 90 days, and with the fluctuating costs of construction materials, waiting that long between the bids and construction could be problematic.
"We're going to have to sit down and get comfortable with that," Fouts said after the meeting.
Typically, when contractors issue bids, they are only good for about 30 days.
"We may try to time it close to the bid results," Fouts said of the bond issuance. "We're going to have to sit down and have that conversation.”
And they'll have to get more comfortable with knowing what the costs will likely be, especially the speciality items.
Authority members asked how the contract might be structured.
Fouts said they're currently thinking of taking the "construction manager at risk" route, because of the nature of the project. For most projects, the county simply does a big price with a general contractor, but that can often result in a number of change orders.
The current jail was built in 1991 as the result of a federal lawsuit, and it was built quickly, under court order. That means the building wasn't as well thought out as it could have been, and the county is beginning to see some issues from that rapid construction.
Though the addition will be connected to the existing jail facility, it will be completely separate from an infrastructure and utility perspective, Fouts said.
During the meeting, the second for the new authority, members also walked through bond issuance scenarios to learn about how they will operate, and discussed the availability of the authority’s services to other governing bodies in the county.
Authority member David Fowler said he'd like the authority to have a package or presentation that can help explain the authority to governing bodies.
Fouts said county staff can put something like that together.
Bond counsel Roger Murray said that most public facilities authorities don't have the power to also issue bonds for municipalities and school systems, but he's glad that the litigation creating the Coweta Public Facilities Authority gave them that power.
Fowler suggested members of the authorities could visit local city council and board meetings to talk about the new authority and what it can do.