County Paying $150,000 For Rewiring On Desert Jail Generator Replacement

Seven years after it was rushed to completion, the High Desert Detention Center project remains as a source of unanticipated cost escalation for the county’s taxpayers. What were interminable cost overruns on the 1,576,000-square foot complex continue.
This week, the board of supervisors agreed to up the amount of money the Barkley Andross Corporation will receive for the replacement of the primary generator at the sheriff’s department’s largest and main jail in the desert portion of 20,105-square mile San Bernardino County.
Originally, on December 8, 2020, the county board of supervisors agreed that the county would pay the Barkley Andross Corporation $1,272,308 to replace the generator at the High Desert Detention Center.
This week, the board consented to two upward cost adjustments on the generator replacement project totaling $186,196, one in the form of an amendment to the contract and the other a change order.
The amendment involves $155,300.70 worth of rewiring on the equipment and its connections to the jail’s various electrical systems. The $30,895.30 change order calls for an adjustment in the work previously contracted for to ensure the generator is covered to prevent it from serving as, essentially, a latter which would allow inmates to escape the jail’s confines.
According to a report to the board of supervisors from Terry Thompson, the director of the county’s real estate division, dated August 24 but completed prior to that, “Amendment No. 1 to the contract will compensate Barkley Andross Corporation for the additional scope of work required to provide new conduit pathways at the automatic transfer switch. During the course of construction, the contractor encountered… unforeseen conditions, including the need to provide new conduit pathways at the automatic transfer switch, as… intercepts reflected in the record drawings were incorrect [and] the conduit intercepts reflected in the plans could not be located. A new conduit pathway is required due to differing site conditions. Amendment No. 1 will extend the contract time for an additional 80 calendar days, from 270 calendar days to 350 calendar days, with a corresponding increase of $155,301 to the contract amount, to allow for completion of the additional scope of work. Change Order No. 1 will compensate Barkley Andross due to differing site conditions and [a] resulting additional scope of work required to (1) incorporate modifications related to procuring and installing three new metal shrouds to encase exposed conduits in order to address a potential safety concern (the possibility that an inmate resident could utilize the exposed conduits to scale the roof and sides of the building); (2) provide for needed temporary power to include door work, x-ray and concrete masonry unit coring (the proposed above-ceiling route to the electrical room was discovered to have existing utility obstructions, requiring a new route); and (3) install additional generator circuits as the 70 AMP sub-feed was found to be insufficient.”
The cost on the change order is $30,895.30.
The High Desert Detention Center, originally referred to as the Adelanto Detention Center, encountered $29 million in construction cost overruns from the time work on the project began in late 2010 until its final phase in 2014. The facility, located at 9438 Commerce Way in Adelanto, was formerly privately owned and run as a 706-inmate capacity institution known as Maranatha Prison. It was sold by its owner, the Moreland Family Trust, to the county in April 2005 for $31.2 million. The transition of the private prison facility into a publicly-run one, which was originally slated to cost $90,951,937 beyond the $31.2 million acquisition cost, added 1,392 new beds to the existing capacity of the jail. After making a finding that the construction bids received from S.J. Amorosa Construction Co., Inc. of Costa Mesa and Flintco of Folsom were non-responsive, the county in December 2010 awarded a $90,951,937 contract to Bellevue, Washington-based Lydig Construction as the low bidder.
During the more than three years of construction on the project, the board of supervisors approved a total of 29 change orders and amendments to the contract, and the price zoomed to $120,419,790. Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, Incorporated, based in Culver City, was the architect on the project. Los Angeles-based Jacobs Engineering was the project engineer, a subcontractor to Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum. The total price tag on the project, including site acquisition, engineering, architectural, licensing and inspection costs, reached $176,651,910, which was $25.45 million more than the $151.1 million projected to be the project’s overall price including a ten percent cost overrun contingency when it was approved in 2010. The county rushed things, as it needed to complete the expansion by January 31, 2014 or face losing $100 million in state funding.
In many cases, that haste created circumstances that led to the cost overruns.
There long were suspicions that persist about kickbacks that may or may not have been provided to county officials by the firms that did the architectural and engineering work on project, as many of the change orders and amendments appeared to be redundant, and outside scrutiny of the project was virtually impossible.
-Mark Gutglueck

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