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Big projects remain on schedule, budget
Courthouse, jail plans head to commission
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Forsyth County News

Construction on the new jail and courthouse should start July 8, reportedly on schedule and within budget.

During a meeting Tuesday, the SPLOST VII Jail/Courthouse Project Team recommended approval of the budget and guaranteed maximum price for construction at nearly $82 million.

The sales tax budget of about $98.4 million falls under the $100 million approved by voters.

A separate $5.3 million from an agreement with the city of Cumming will fund work not identified in the original project scope, such as a second parking deck and land acquisition.

The Forsyth County commission will take the final vote on the project budget July 2. If approved, work will begin at the downtown Cumming sites July 8.

Voters approved the new facilities as part of the November 2011 referendum for a new round of the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, anticipated to collect about $200 million in six years.

Also Tuesday, the project team approved a change in materials for the jail and courthouse in agreeing with the guaranteed maximum price.

An increase in the cost of labor actually led to a more expensive material becoming affordable in the project budget, since it requires fewer workers to install, said Mark Alles, deputy operation manager with Turner Construction. The firm is heading construction of the facilities with Winter Construction.

“When we can upgrade at a lower cost, we thought it was a fairly easy decision,” Alles said. “It’s a much better wall.  We didn’t think we could afford it, but with the labor market making the dramatic shift it did in the last quarter, we had to go to it to save money.”

The prefabricated wall will provide the base for a thin brick cover, so the courthouse and jail still will have the same outer appearance.

Program manager Joe Lee said the material will allow the building to have a life of 50 to 100 years. The exterior also provides better insulation, which means lower energy costs.

The cost of pure masonry, or brick and stone, would have been nearly $5 million more because of the necessary labor, he said.

The committee asked several questions about the change in material before agreeing to the recommendation.