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Jackson to vote on animal shelter contract

The new animal shelter (shown in blue) will replace the existing facility on Airport Road and be built on the site of the current Green Energy Park office. McMillan Pazdan Smith rendering The new animal shelter (shown in blue) will replace the existing facility on Airport Road and be built on the site of the current Green Energy Park office. McMillan Pazdan Smith rendering

Jackson County commissioners plan to vote next week on a construction contract to build a new animal rescue center as well as walking trails and other improvements at the Green Energy Park in Dillsboro.

In December, commissioners approved a $5.39 million project ordinance, of which $3.97 million would go toward construction costs. The animal rescue center itself was to cost about $3 million, with a parking lot, grading, walking trails and landscaping on the closed landfill rounding out the rest of the construction cost.

The county received seven bids for the project, commissioners learned during a work session held this afternoon, all of which came in over the budgeted amount for construction. The base bids ranged from $4.03 million to $5.8 million, with the option to add any of six additional alternatives for an extra cost.

Cary Perkins, lead architect for the firm McMillan Pazden Smith, which is managing the project, recommended that commissioners accept the low bid, which came from Asheville-based H&M Constructors. Despite the higher-than-budgeted bid amounts, County Manager Don Adams told commissioners that they could accept H&M’s bid and still stay in budget, with room to spare. This would occur mainly through a reduction in contingency funding — the original project budget had included a fairly high contingency line item of $596,896, or 15 percent of the total construction cost. The revised budget he showed commissioners this afternoon instead used a reduced contingency of 7 percent.

Commissioners did not express any opposition to going with H&M, but what did cause some discussion was the question of which alternatives they should accept along with the base bid. Priced alternatives included $84,300 to install a backup generator, $49,600 for an epoxy floor, $114,400 for a radiant heated floor using methane from the closed landfill, $28,300 for a polished concrete floor, $80,200 to install a prefabricated restroom building near the walking trails and $26,400 for a prefabricated storage building for use by the nonprofits that would have offices in the rescue center. An additional $52,572 would allow the existing kilns to be relocated rather than destroyed and then protected by a carport and fencing.

The epoxy and polished concrete floor options would be mutually exclusive choices, upgrades aimed at making the floors easier to clean quickly and thoroughly. Though more expensive, the epoxy option would have the benefit of covering any cracks between the floor and the wall, reducing the opportunity for bacteria and viruses to hide out in impossible-to-clean nooks and crannies.

The radiant floor would be “a bit of an unusual thing to include,” said Perkins, but it made sense to bid it out as an alterative due to the availability of methane gas from the landfill — the plans already call for using that gas to heat the building and provide hot water — and because the warm floors would make winter a more pleasant time for the dogs. The dog kennels are planned as indoor-outdoor constructions, with a door that the dogs can open to move between their indoor and outdoor space. The heated floor would allow them to spend more time outside during the winter.

If the board were to accept the base bid along with all the additional requests — including the epoxy floor but excluding the polished concrete option — the grand total for the project would come to $5.7 million, or $338,726 over budget. Adams recommended that commissioners allocate additional funds the cover the alternatives but noted that if they wish to stay within budget, they can still spend an additional $68,746 over the base bid.

Adams told commissioners that he would prioritize the epoxy floors and public restrooms, with the generator and storage building on the next tier. Next in line would be moving the existing kilns and building a carport and fencing around them, with the radiant floor coming in last.

Several commissioners expressed doubt about the radiant floor, saying that they hadn’t had good experiences with them in other situations and pointing out that it would be the costliest alternative of all of them. There was also some discussion about the durability of an epoxy floor, with commissioners seeking assurance that the epoxy product and the quality of its installation would be covered under by warranty.

Perkins told commissioners that the specifications of the job would include a warranty on the epoxy, as well as specific conditions to ensure correct installation.

Commissioners came to a consensus that they would be ready to vote on the issue at their next meeting slated for 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20. However, it is not completely clear what decision they are most likely to make. When the project ordinance was adopted last year, Commissioner Boyce Deitz was the only member of the board to vote against it, citing cost concerns, while Commissioner Mickey Luker was absent.

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