Kennebec County officials are revising plans for an expansion at the Kennebec County jail after bids on the project came in more than three times higher than expected.

The bids for converting an indoor recreation space into a two-story space to house 21 inmates, which were opened earlier this month, ranged from $784,700 to $937,500. County officials had expected them to come in between $125,00 to $250,000.

Kennebec County commissioners were expected to consider the bids at their meeting Tuesday, but that decision is likely to be delayed, Kennebec County Administrator Robert Devlin said.

“The bids were more expensive than we thought,” Devlin said. “We’ve met with the engineer on the project, and we’ve taken some things out that were not critical.”

E.S. Coffin Engineering and Surveying put the project out to bid. The money to build the project is coming from the jail’s capital improvement fund.

Some items were not critical to the expansion project but made sense to include, Devlin said. The bid included, among other things, repairing a floor and replacing hot water storage tanks, which are still needed, but won’t now be part of the project.

“We have to focus on our core project,” Devlin said.

The bidders are:

• Sheridan Construction, Fairfield, $891,331;

• Peachey Builders, Augusta, $853,681;

• Callahan Construction, Augusta, $784,700;

• Bowman Constructors, Newport, $937,500;

• Blane Casey Building Contractor, Augusta, $874,800.

Bidders also offered up completion schedules that range from 120 days to 224 days, longer than county officials anticipated.

This is a case where time is money. The county has contracts with both Cumberland County and Twin Bridges Jail in Wiscasset to house inmates in those facilities.

Devlin said the daily cost of housing 21 inmates in Cumberland County alone is $1,500, for example. Spending the money on the expansion would cut the ongoing cost of boarding inmates out of the county.

Plans have been in the works since earlier this year to increase the capacity at the chronically overcrowded jail. With limited options on expanding the footprint of the jail, located in Augusta’s historic district, officials looked at reconfiguring inside space to expand the jail’s 147-bed capacity to 168.

The Kennebec County jail population is routinely higher than that, although on Friday it was 166 in addition to the 21 inmates boarded at other jails. Maine Pretrial Services monitors about 120 more people.

To control the size of the inmate population and to house those who require it, county officials have already adopted a number of measures, including adding cots and bunks to common areas to accommodate more inmates. In 2015, when the overcrowding reached a crisis point, then-Sheriff Randall Liberty requested local police departments to limit arrests to ease the burden on the jail and its staff.

Devlin said he expects to negotiate with Callahan and Peachey on both price and time to complete the project.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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