Construction company warns of escalating price tag for Dane Co. jail project proposal in 2023

MADISON, Wis. — An internal county memo from the Department of Administration to the Dane County Board of Supervisors indicates construction costs for the Dane County Jail consolidation project could increase yet again under a proposal unveiled earlier this month.

RELATED: Dane County Board of Supervisors Black Caucus unveils new plan for Jail Consolidation Project

Officials with the construction company used by the county told the county’s public works department to expect estimates of a 6 to 8% increase and a ten-month delay if the county adopts a plan introduced by the Black Caucus to scale back the project to five floors and remove medical and mental health beds.

The memo to supervisors said the company, Gilbane, estimated a 10 month delay could result in a 6% to 8% increase in the cost of the project in 2023, potentially adding $6.6 to $9.2 million to the total construction costs. Those estimates could go up or down depending on the economy next year.

“This increase is tied to the continued escalation in the construction industry at an unprecedented rate,” a Gilbane representative noted in an email to the public works department.

“We really need to lock into a design and stick with it,” public works director Todd Draper told News 3 Now. “Once we determine what that is, we really need to move forward without any further delays and redesigns. It needs to move quickly. Construction right now is very volatile and it’s very difficult to get these numbers and to get contractors to hold numbers for a long time.”

Here’s a look at the project’s history and where it stands now.

2016: A report recommended that the Dane County Jail be closed and residents be moved to an updated facility with “due haste” due to poor conditions in the jail

2017: The Dane County Board approved a plan to add four stories to the current city-county jail building for $75 million

2019: Due to structural issues, the board scrapped the plan for a new seven story tower that would cost $148 million. Through the present, ballooning construction costs have inflated the original plan to $190 million.

March 2022: With the jail plan over budget, the Board found a compromise earlier this year. In March, the Board approved a new plan that cut a floor and almost $30 million from the 2019 plan. This plan for a six-story tower originally came in at $166 million, but due to delays and rising construction costs, it now sits at $175 million.

Dane County public works director Todd Draper said the construction design plans for this facility are 95% finished. A  referendum is needed to get the additional $10 million necessary to keep the plan moving; the county board would need to approve the referendum soon in order to get it on the ballot in November and avoid further delays.

August 2022: In early August, the Black Caucus of the Dane County board of supervisors unveiled a new plan that would cut yet another floor off of the tower and remove acute medical beds in order to keep the plan in the current $166 million budget.

However, the internal memo obtained by News 3 Now shows that county officials estimate this plan would cause a 10-month delay due to architects taking several steps back in design plans for what would now be a five-story tower. 

The Black Caucus’s plan will come before the full board for a vote on Thursday; last week, the county’s public works and transportation committee recommended it for rejection.