Courthouse construction cost rises from $19 million to over $28 million | Latest titles


Members of the Washington County Board of Supervisors are meeting tonight to decide how to handle a projected $9 million cost overrun for the Washington County Courthouse expansion project.

A supervisor made it clear that he would not ask Washington County taxpayers to make up the difference.

“I will not vote to raise taxes on the courthouse.” Supervisor Dwayne Ball said Wednesday.

Ball, a member of the courthouse committee, said the technical estimate was $19 million when the committee decided to choose BurWil Construction to renovate the county courthouse a few years ago.

That money has already been borrowed and is in the bank, supervisor Randy Pennington said while explaining that the county has an additional $2 million in funds that have been earmarked for the project.

This gives the board approximately $21 million to use for renovations and expansion of the courthouse in central Abingdon, Ball said.

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But material and labor costs have increased significantly over the past two years due to a trio of contributing factors, Ball said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for materials and disrupted supply while the Russian invasion of Ukraine has affected fuel costs and increased the rate of inflation, according to Ball.

Additionally, says Ball, the federal government’s decision to distribute COVID-19 relief money to municipalities — with the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) — sent money across the country and inspired other construction projects.

“I think it’s a combination where labor prices have gone up due to the lack of skilled workers, and there are so many jobs out there,” Ball said. “And every municipality across the country has the money to do the same thing. It can be a school or a water supply project.

The result is an unexpected financial crisis, said Kevin Hill, county general services manager. “It’s a perfect storm.”

Steel prices have doubled, Ball said, while Pennington said prices for some materials “have quadrupled” in recent months.

“It’s just the world today,” Pennington said. “That’s what’s happening in the market. I don’t know how many times the steel rose.

Maybe supervisors can use some of his remaining ARPA money — up to $1.9 million — to pay for the courthouse’s new HVAC system, as it’s tied to health issues, Ball said. .

Tonight’s 6 p.m. meeting at the Government Center building near Virginia Highlands Community College gives supervisors time to review plans, architectural drawings and discuss options on what to do next, Pennington said. .

“It’s the first time we’ve all come together and talked,” he said.

The board can look at “things that we don’t really need,” Pennington said. “I haven’t seen it all yet. But, until you see it, you can’t really make a good decision.

At this point, Pennington said, “There are different numbers being thrown around. Is it $28 million? I can’t answer that yet because I don’t really know for sure.

“Would we like to make it cheaper? Yes, we would,” Pennington said. “But I don’t know how much cheaper we can do it.”

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