JANESVILLE—Bids for Rock County projects have been coming in higher than expected, including for the Rock County Jail project and a Law Library project.
JP Cullen was the only company offering estimates for many of the projects, including the county jail.
The county board on Thursday approved a third round of bids for the jail project, this time for $58.5 million. The other two rounds of bids were approved earlier this year, amounting in total to about $96 million.
Dan Defor, of Janesville, said during a public comment session during Thursday’s meeting that he was concerned about the transparency of the jail project.
“From a citizen, transparency, acceptability and accountability perspective, would it have made more sense to get the citizens involved earlier in the process by having, let’s say a referendum… versus approving the project at the board level alone,” Defor said. “My understanding is that this is the largest public construction project, or close to it at least, in the history of Rock County, “ that will impact local taxes.
“It’s not uncommon for school districts to have referendums for these types of large capital expenditure projects. Why wasn’t that done here?” DeFor questioned.
The county board also considered a resolution to renovate the former law library and probate vault into additional courtrooms. The county has created space to do this as records in the two rooms have been digitized.
The renovations failed to pass at Thursday’s county board meeting. That needed a super majority, with 20 supervisors voting to approve.
The county had budgeted $500,000 to convert the rooms. However, due to inflation driving up prices for materials the project bids came in more than $150,000 over budget, facilities management director Brent Sutherland said. The low bid came in at $654,320.
Criticism regarding JP Cullen also came up in this project, as it won the bid despite Lake Geneva-based Glen Fern Construction being $151,000 lower. That bid was rejected because of “failing to provide the required bid documents,” county documents said.
Sutherland said Glen Fern had “issues with DemandStar,” a third party contractor that accepts bids for the county for government projects.
Supervisor Mike Zoril said it was fiscally irresponsible to approve JP Cullen considering the difference in the two bids.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to take this up now,” Zoril said.
Sutherland said bidders also could hand deliver estimates to the courthouse, so Glen Fern wasn’t excluded from the process.
Prior to the vote, Branch 3 Judge Jeffrey Kuglitsch said the renovations of the two rooms for additional hearing rooms was needed.
Courtroom L is “extremely confined” and presents safety risks because there is only one access point in and out of the room, the judge said.
“There’s no way out for the judge or commissioner if something were to happen,” Kuglitsch said. “Fortunately, it hasn’t happened there but the potential is there.”
Kuglitsch also said the renovations would allow for him to have a changing room because “my bailiff doesn’t like me wearing my robe through the courthouse because it’s a safety risk.” He also said there is a backlog in court cases, so two additional rooms would have alleviated that.