Back to the Drawing Board, Warren County Supervisors Reject Justice Center Bids

INDIANOLA, Iowa -- The center of the Warren County square is an eyesore and it won’t be changing any time soon.

The county tore down the old courthouse earlier this summer. More than a year after the Department of Corrections shut it down because of health and safety concerns.

Last August, voters approved a $29.9 million bond referendum to build a new justice center but bids for the project came in at a total of around $37 million. Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to reject the bids and start over. Saying project managers DCI Group and architects Shive-Hattery over designed the project.

“There has been a professional level of care that has not been met” said Board Chair Crystal McIntyre at Tuesday’s meeting. “I think we’ve been pretty clear since last year of what the budget was and (DCI Group) may say we told you it was going to be $33 million or more, but you knew what the budget was going in.”

Contractors say throwing out the bids could end up costing the county even more money.

“You’re going to have redesign expenses; county staff is going to have to reconvene and spend more hours participating in a redesign effort” said DCI Group Senior Project Manager Nick Bruck. “And inflation doesn’t go away. So we’re going to have to deal with inflation and then uncertainty of the market impact and uncertainty of the rebid results in the future.”

The delay means deputies will have to keep transporting inmates to other counties. Meaning more man hours, plus the cost of housing them elsewhere.

Residents want the project done right.

“I want to make sure that we’re spending the money wisely so that it benefits our grandchildren and that we aren’t doing another building in 15 years and spending another over $30 million” said resident Justin Peterson.

Indianola native Molly Rogalla opened her downtown screen printing and design shop, Embark Ink, earlier this year.

“We knew that the square was going to revitalize, maybe with the addition of the new courthouse” said Rogalla. “That got us excited. Like okay, there’s something new coming in. Progress is always a good thing.”

Until plans are stopped in their tracks.

“It’s kind of frustrating that our leadership didn’t have everything in place before they did anything” said Rogalla.

“As we’re hosting like 80,000 people for RAGBRAI or the 100,000 people that come in for the Balloon Classic as a nine day event, we were talking more about the hole in the center of our town versus what we do and the excitement that we have behind our business.”

But Rogalla keeps a positive attitude, because at the end of the day, it’s the people that count.

“It doesn’t matter what building we’re in or what our square looks like. It’s the people who make what this town is” said Rogalla. “We as a community as a whole should be really proud of the things we’ve accomplished this summer, and in years past and in years to come. At the core of it, it’s the people that make the community not the buildings put in place.”

The Supervisors will get an update on the redesign progress in October. Meaning the earliest ground could break on a new facility is spring 2020.

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