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Eau Claire jail locks down quick construction schedule

By Jan Basina

New Jail, Law Enforcement and Courthouse Remodeling, Eau Claire, Eau Claire County

Considering that it only took about eight years for county and local officials to finally nail down all the specifics to build the $59 million Eau Claire County Jail and Justice Center, construction seems to be humming right along.

In fact, work is ahead of schedule.

Work on the jail, which is the first phase of the project, began three months ago. And according to Eau Claire-based Market & Johnson, the construction management firm overseeing the project, the estimated cost for the jail is about $875,000 less than what was projected in 2008.

That’s because the construction schedule has changed. Originally, four construction phases were to be completed all at once. But the project has been altered to complete three sections and the shell in a fourth section. The current cost estimate for the jail is $38.2 million.

Work on the new jail’s foundations, footings and site work is currently out for bid. While other portions of work will be bid in early 2011.

Construction on the law enforcement garage began in July. And 2008 estimates put the cost at $1.28. But according to Market & Johnson, the cost of that portion is currently at $1.13 million.

Another savings has been the cost to buy parcels necessary for the new jail and demolition of structures on the properties. In 2008, the cost was estimated at $2.33 million. As of Oct. 5 that cost was only $2.2 million, according to Market & Johnson.

But the project has also incurred some added expenses. The jail had to be rotated 90 degrees and shifted to the north to accommodate a redesign of the building. Construction of a parking lot along First Avenue and utility work, which cost almost $384,000, was not included in the 2008 cost figures.

The county has emphasized that the overall cost could not exceed $59.1 million and, by all accounts, it looks like the project will be completed on time. The jail is scheduled for completion in spring 2012, with occupancy in May of that year. Courthouse remodeling should be finished in August 2013.

After years of debate (and sometimes not-so-friendly rhetoric), the project that came in like a lion, looks like it will be going out like a lamb.

Jan Basina is a data reporter at The Daily Reporter. She plans to only write about the jail, never visit long-term.

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