Photo by Darla Nine

Crews were on site of the new Fountain County Sheriff’s Office and Jail Monday as a meeting was conducted to explain the reasons for its completion being behind schedule.

Fountain County Commissioners and Council members met March 9 in Covington to discuss delay issues pushing completion date more than six months and the added change orders for the new jail and sheriff’s office.

Brad Deno, president of Kettelhut Construction, opened with an outline of significant and numerous delays that impacted the original bid schedule for completion on July 2019 that was changed to September 2019.

The 52 weeks of delays laid out in order: design phase, 11 weeks; pre-engineered metal design delay, six weeks; completion of foundations delay, nine weeks; extreme winter weather, five weeks; weather attributed paint delay, 11 weeks; and Glesco Electric’s kitchen equipment damage, 10 weeks.

Commissioner Tim Shumaker spoke up questioning Kettelhut’s president about their experience with jail construction linking the delays to lack of knowledge in this type of construction to avoid more than normal delays. Shumaker also made known his extensive research in jail construction managers prior to hiring was to avoid these extreme delays and ensure the taxpayers of Fountain County that the $16 million investment would be handled efficiently.

Commissioner Don Hesler countered by relegating to DLZ, security architect Scott Carnegie if Kettelhut was the problem in the delays because it had never built a jail.

Carnegie replied, “I don’t believe Kettelhut had any affect on the design timeline. They presented bidding and completion standards.”

Carnegie has been actively involved from the beginning attending every meeting with council member Jim Hershberger and commissioners Hessler and Stalter for two years.

The approval of the certificate of substantial completion came with a split decision by commissioners Shumaker, Hesler and Craig Stalter.

Shumaker explained his nay vote, “What I witnessed today was a well planned attempt to cover each other’s back so no one accepted responsibility for the project being six months and counting behind schedule.

Would it have been different if Commissioners Hesler and Stalter used common sense when spending tax dollars and hired Construction Control Inc., the state’s most experience jail construction management company? The answer is we will never know. What we do know is the project is months behind schedule and someone needs to accept responsibility.”

Additional discussion included the recovery effort from Glesco’s acidic substance damage to the kitchen equipment. Kent Minnette, county attorney, explained the project’s builders risk insurance $5,000 deductible and action needed to legally recoup the deductible and cost of replacement equipment. DMZ is calling in on favors to try to get the equipment sooner than the 8-11 weeks currently projected.

Progress can be seen as contractors are completing miscellaneous punch list tasks and work. The parking lot of the new jail was full of work trucks on Monday.

Jail completion is expected end of March and will be ready for use as intended. Architects and engineers met the prior week signing off certificates of completion at 90 percent.

The new jail will have 112 beds and be monitored by a central control area using state of the art technology allowing staff to safely monitor and control inmates. Training the sheriff’s department and staff on the new equipment will begin once the punch list is completed by April. Sheriff Holt gladly announced, “Our jail commander has 10 years experience on the new equipment.” The county will finance out of county housing for inmates while all of the sheriff’s department is being trained.

Commissioners were set to meet 6:30 p.m. March 16 at the Fountain County Courthouse.