The first phase of the new Hancock County Jail and Justice Facility is close to beginning, and board of supervisors members said Monday they are hopeful the entire project can get under way by the end of the year.
On Monday, the board opened bids on the first two projects associated with the jail project.
The first two phases include off-site utility work and a massive earth-work project which will set more than 120,000 cubic yards of new soil on the property.
In February, the county acquired 52 acres of land on Highway 90 near the NASA buffer zone.
The county is poised to receive about $40 million in federal funds to construct a new jail, sheriffs office, and justice court at the site.
Board President Rocky Pullman said Monday that it is good to finally see the project moving forward.
“We are spending a lot of the taxpayers’ money because we do not have a jail,” he said. “This is a very important project and these first steps will move the process along.”
Officials said the off-site utility work consists of installing fire hydrant connections; laying the infrastructure for future water and sewer hook-ups and running water lines which will connect with the new Hancock County Utility Authorities water main on Harbor Drive.
Six companies bid on the project, but the contract was not immediately awarded.
The low bid was from Twin L Construction at a price of $796,000.
Supervisors said they plan to award the project at the next board meeting.
David Wright of Perez Architects said the utility contract will have an 80-day completion period once the contractor begins work.
The earth-work portion of the project drew nine bids ranging from $1.4 million to $2.9 million.
This project includes trucking in more than 120,000 cubic yards of dirt to elevate the site.
Wright said the site will be elevated about eight feet above its current elevation and the actual finished floor elevation will be at 23.1 feet.
Wright said the earth-work portion of the project has a completion time of 40 days, but then the dirt must set for about 90 days before actual construction can begin.
Once the first two projects are complete, the county can take bids on the construction phase, Wright said.
Two companies appear to be in the running for the low bid. Yates Construction was the apparent low at $1.415 million, but G.T. Development’s bid was $1.45 million with a lower alternate.
Supervisors took the bids under advisement and said they will award the project in two weeks.
The new jail will include seven cell blocks, a booking center, medical facility, recreation yard, kitchen, laundry, and administrative offices.
Each one of the blocks will contain a series of cells which will be capable of holding different numbers of inmates. For instance, in the low security block, the cell will be capable of holding six to eight inmates, whereas in the maximum security area, each cell will only hold one to two inmates, officials said.
The facility is expected to be about 100,000 total square feet, but plans are to try to keep the facility from being intrusive on neighbors.
Supervisors said they plan to allow access to the facility from Hwy. 90 only and also keep a tree-line buffer between the facility and adjacent properties.
The new justice court will be constructed adjacent to the jail facility.
The overall budget for the jail project is $37.5 million.
The money will come from the $200 million Ground Zero Action Plan through HUD.
BY Dwayne Bremer
The Sea Coast echo