County panel divided over $2.5M addition

Cost, timing of Sheriff’s Office project concerns two committee members
Ozaukee Press staff

After years of discussion, it’s time that Ozaukee County constructs an addition to the Sheriff’s Office that would house a training center and storage facility, the Public Safety Committee agreed Tuesday.

But the recommendation to spend $2.5 million to hire Camosy Construction Co. to construct the addition wasn’t unanimous. Committee members Pat Foy and Joshua Haas voted against proceeding with the project.

“Are we sure with everything going on in the world and with inflation that this is the right time to do this?” Haas asked.

Supply chain issues and inflation could ease in the next year, he said, so the county should postpone the work.

“It’s a worthy project,” Haas said. “I just think we’re jumping the gun. How much more can it go up?”

But Committee Chairman Rick Nelson said the cost has been increasing for the past several years even though inflation has been minimal.

“I have not found one time when delaying has saved us money. It’s always costs us,” he said.

Project architect Jon Wallenkamp of Kueny Architects said it’s unlikely that the costs will go down significantly in the next 18 months, adding that project costs historically increases 3.5% annually.

Sheriff Jim Johnson said the addition is needed, noting he keeps some vehicles and evidence at the Highway Department and in rented facilities in Port Washington.

It would be more efficient and secure to have these housed at the Justice Center, he said, noting that a burglar recently attempted to break into the department’s command vehicle while it was housed off site.

“To be able to protect our assets from getting into someone else’s hands is very important to me,” Johnson said. “This is more critical than cost savings.”

And, he added, it would be more convenient to house department vehicles at the Justice Center where deputies have quicker access to them when they are needed.

County Administrator Jason Dzwinel also noted that the space that would be vacated at the Highway Department could then be used by that department for its needs.

Dzwinel noted the county has borrowed $1 million for the 10,000-square-foot addition, which would be built on the east side of the Justice Center.

Those funds would be supplemented with roughly $400,000 in the prisoner boarding fees, he said, adding the remaining $1 million would likely come from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The county has been working on this project for at least a decade.

Dzwinel noted that when it was initially bid in 2021, the cost was estimated at $1.5 million, but bids came in about $500,000 higher than expected.

The county then scaled back the addition and rebid it, but those bids, too, were over budget at $2.2 million.

“We really thought it was going to come down to $1.5 million,” Wallenkamp said.

The county then decided to bid the complete project, noting it addresses all the needs of the sheriff’s department, Dzwinel said.

“The need is there,” Wallenkamp said.

Last week, the county opened bids and Camosy Construction Co. was the low bidder out of four firms.

The cost, Wallenkamp said, includes a $55,000 contingency fund.

Foy questioned whether there are enough benefits to the building to justify the added cost.

“Is it still a good business decision?” he asked.

Dzwinel said the county pays about $10,000 annually to rent storage space for the vehicles and evidence.

But other factors are just as important,  Wallenkamp said.

“If a vehicle is needed and it takes 10, 20 minutes to get it, that’s real time,” he said.

The Executive Committee will consider the project, which will then be sent to the County Board for consideration.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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