Joint county committee backs jails construction agreement
By LeAnn Eckroth
Burleigh and Morton county officials Wednesday favored the terms of a construction agreement needed for the two entities to build a $70 million jail together. It is one of three contracts the separate commissions must approve for the 475-inmate facility to be completed at Yegen Road and Apple Creek Road. It will specify building costs will be shared with Burleigh County paying 87 percent of building costs and Morton County the rest.
The tentative agreement also will set caps for how new construction changes will be decided during the building process. Smaller building change orders would be decided by Burleigh County Sheriff Pat Heinert, mid-range construction changes would be approved by a joint county building committee and larger revisions to costs would be approved by each county commission. All present agreed Burleigh County would be the lead agency in the construction projects and operating the future facility. County officials will ask their architect firm to help them define what construction change order costs are lower, mid-range and higher for a construction project of this size. The construction contract will first be approved by the committee and then by the Burleigh and Morton county commissions.
The cost of buying the land for the jail will be part of construction cost, also split 87-13 . The two county commissions will pay the owner the Burleigh County Park Board for the land.
Each county will pay for their share of construction costs with a half-cent sales tax that voters from each county approved on June 10. It’s expected the state Tax Department will start collecting the jail tax for each county on Oct. 1.
The joint committee also will draft a memorandum of understanding agreement between the two counties defining each county’s responsibilities and an operations agreement for when the jail is occupied. Each sales tax will end when all jail building costs are paid for.
“The MOU will be staffing concerns, operational details. The operations contract will be the standard agreement in which we operate over the next 30 years after we move in,” said Heinert. He will chair the joint jail committee.
Heinert said early dirt work could start by this fall and bid out first. Plans are to compact the soil this year so it can speed up the rest of the construction process. He wants the jail structure enclosed before 2015 -16 snowfall and the jail occupied by early 2017.
Heinert wants the jail operations agreement to base shared costs on each county’s 2013 and 2014 inmate counts for the first two years.
The ownership and operation agreement also will specify the contract will initially be for 30 years with Morton County. It also will include a clause to allow for automatic renewal of the jail contract in10-year increments. “If Burleigh County were to want out, there would be language that a portion of (building’s value) would be paid back to Morton County,” said Bruce Strinden, chairman of the Morton County Commission.
The two counties state’s attorneys will draft the final language of each agreement before each county commission votes on them.
Building costs for the jail will be paid by the half-cent sales tax and jail operation costs would be paid for by each county’s property taxes.