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Douglas County board: jail nudges ahead

Douglas County officials will soon know how much the county's state-mandated new jail will cost.

The numbers, they say, should be looking good.

During their regular meeting Tuesday, commissioners scheduled bidding dates for construction of the 55,000 square-foot facility, which will be built at the current public works department site on 3rd Avenue West.

The county is set to open up the project for contractor bids at 2 p.m., March 10, in the commissioner boardroom, located on the second floor of the Douglas County Courthouse.

Commissioners plan to award bid-winners at a special board meeting a week later on March 17.

And they expect the bids to come in under the jail's $15.76 price tag, given how hard the construction industry has been hit by the economic downturn.

"From a builder standpoint, this is the best time the county could ever choose to construct this project," said Earl Feuchtmann of Contegrity Group, Inc., the construction management firm hired by Douglas County to handle the project.

"There are a fair number of contractors watching this," he said. "There has been a lot of attention, and we anticipate we will get flooded with good, competitive bids."

Feuchtmann said detention facility construction is a specialty area, and with companies nationwide expected to be competing for the county's business, it's possible the jail could cost less than $15 million.

He said a building project recently bid in Mille Lacs County came in "very favorable under budget."

In other action, they:

•Declined to require performance bonds for bid packages on parts of the jail construction that are less than $75,000. The move is likely to encourage higher turnout among local contractors.

•Signed off on the purchase of a new $76,457.41 tandem snowplow truck.

•Approved the plat for the county's new $6.8 million public works building, currently under construction and located south of the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

•Set the 2009 rent for the Lakes Area Recreation athletic center, located Douglas County Services Center at 720 Fillmore Street in Alexandria. The LAR will pay the amount this year as it did in 2008.