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Fayette reviews bids for prison design

| Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Fayette County has received four responses to a request seeking qualifications for architectural services in what could be an initial step toward building a prison.

County officials opened the firms' sealed packages on Thursday, after the deadline for submissions had passed.

The firms include Astorino and Pieper O'Brien Herr Architects, both of Pittsburgh, and L.R. Kimball of Ebensburg. Two firms submitted a joint qualifications package, Sleighter Engineering of Uniontown and Crabtree Rohrbaugh Associates of Mechanicsburg.

In addition to designing a new prison, the four were the only respondents to a separate request for qualifications to remodel an existing structure for use as a temporary women's lockup. A former kindergarten facility on Iowa Street in Uniontown has been identified as a potential location for the temporary jail.

Commissioner Al Ambrosini said he, Controller Sean Lally and two members of a prison working group will review the submissions. All firms will be interviewed, he said, and the group will then pass its recommendations on to the full board of commissioners.

Commissioners could vote to retain one of the firms when they meet later this month, Ambrosini said.

Although commissioners have not yet voted to build a new jail, the prison board has recommended that the county do so. The prison board based its recommendation on a needs-assessment study performed by Crabtree Rohrbaugh and Sleighter Engineering.

The needs-assessment study found that building a jail in Dunbar Township, near the fairgrounds, is the least costly alternative to alleviate overcrowding.

Lally has said the county is on track to spend $1 million to board inmates in other counties to prevent overcrowding at the jail in Uniontown.

The study estimated the cost for a new jail at $27 million to $32 million.

Ambrosini said each firm will be evaluated on a number of factors, including a comparison of the firms' projected costs for various facilities to the final costs of each project. Another factor to be reviewed, he said, are daily, per-inmate costs of each firm's recent prison projects.

The firms were not asked to submit fee proposals for their services, but Ambrosini said they should fall between 7 percent and 8 percent of the cost of the facility. He said the firms' fees will not be the deciding factor in making a recommendation to commissioners.

“It's not the important part of the process,” Ambrosini said. “The important part is, how efficient is the design.”

Ambrosini said he wants to have each firm evaluated and interview in time for commissioners to consider retaining one by their Oct. 15 meeting.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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