County Awards New Probation Office Contract

Written by Estero Bay News

February 9, 2023

A rendering of the new County Probation Office.

County Supervisors have awarded a construction contract to build a new County Probation Office for more than $33 million to an out-of-county firm.

Supervisors award the contract to F & H Const., of Lodi, Calif., the lowest of three bidders, for $33.28 million. Add in a $1.6 million contingency for any changes that might arise, and the total construction budget tops $34.8 million.

The County had to adjust the project’s available budget by over $2.7 million using proceeds from a bond sale to cover the difference.

The project would replace an old office building the Probation Department uses on Bishop Street, at the old General Hospital complex.

Called Casa Lorna, the department’s building dates back to 1940 and “has exceeded its useful life,” reads the staff report from the Jan. 24 meeting.

The County conducted a feasibility study in 2017 to look at the Probation Department’s future needs and concluded the old Casa Lorna wouldn’t cut it. “It was concluded that a new Department building should be developed,” the report said.

Supervisors created the project with the 2018-19 fiscal year budget and plans are to build a 31,500-square foot “two-story Probation Department office building with staff offices, support spaces, secure staff parking and public/visitor parking. The project will be developed in such a way to ensure that the neighboring Child Development Resource Center remains on site and functional per previous Board direction.”

The project had initially required the childcare facility to vacate the premises, which caused an uproar in the community. Supervisors accommodated the facility and changed the project accordingly.

Since then the Supervisors voted to use the “design-build” method of development, which means F & H will both design and construct the new building.

They also voted to first seek qualifications from potential contractors and to give stipends of $25,000 to the firms that place second and third, in the rankings. 

The County got three bids: F & H’s successful bid and losing bidders Harris Const., of Paso Robles and Specialty Const., of SLO. 

But F & H’s contract plus the contingency isn’t even the totality of the project, as the County also budgeted $2.2 million for “other building and site costs;” and $2.2 million in “soft costs” for a grand total project estimated cost of $40 million. The County has already spent over $928,000 on the project.

When it’s done, the new building will “include features that meet or exceed the intent of the County’s Energywise Plan,” which the Supervisors adopted in November 2011. “The features will assist in reducing ongoing operation and maintenance costs and include, but not be limited to: 

• Meeting or exceeding the requirement of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver rating (without formal certification);

• Site and building commissioning of all installed systems for maximum efficiency and performance;

• Installation of electric vehicle charging stations;

•  A rooftop photovoltaic electrical power generation system; and,

• Installation of infrastructure for future electric battery storage system.”

F & H is offering to include some additional amenities — an outdoor exercise patio; site plan with increased landscape area; and “enhanced exterior elevations incorporating durable materials beyond what was specified.”

The project doesn’t include money to demolish the old Casa Lorna building. Public Works is planning to return to the board on that aspect at a later date.

With the County using bonds to pay for this project (as well as the new dispatch center in Templeton and rebuilding the Cayucos Vet’s Hall), the new Probation Department office payoff will be more than $70.8 million paid in annual installments of $2.8 million for 25 years.

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