"On time and on budget" was the mantra when Hall County’s $54 million jail was built on Barber Road last year.
The private management company charged with keeping that promise saw to it that the biggest building project in the county’s history was completed more than two months ahead of schedule and $1 million under budget.
For meeting strict guidelines of efficiency, security and cost, despite inevitable change orders and a rise in building material prices, project manager Gleeds recently won the top national award for achievement in program management from the Construction Management Association of America.
"Gleeds is well-deserving of that recognition," said Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell. He, along with Commissioner Steve Gailey and sheriff’s officials, worked closely with the company on the project. "Our goal was to build a $54 million jail and to get the biggest bang for our buck. We’re quite impressed with how they maintained the scope of the project."
Maintaining the scope, Powell said, meant not allowing the plans to shrink or the budget to balloon from unforeseen obstacles. Hall County voters approved the jail, and its price tag, in a 2004 1-cent special purpose tax referendum, and officials vowed that they would stick to the budget.
The new jail is divided into two major components: a 65,000-square-foot core support center that includes booking, medical, laundry, kitchen and master control functions, and 159,000 square feet of inmate housing in a pair of six-story towers. Not all the cells house local inmates; the county is projected to bring in about $4 million in annual revenue by charging other jurisdictions daily fees to hold its inmates.
Private project managers like Gleeds are not used in every county building project.
Gleeds officials acted as the day-to-day supervisors, overseeing the efforts of architect Clemons Rutherford and Associates and primary contractor Turner Construction, bringing what Gleeds U.S. president Chris Soffe called a "neutrality" to the project."We didn’t have a vested interest in the design or the construction, and that’s often where the issues go a bit wrong," Soffe said. "All the things that could get out of control on a project were well-handled on a monthly basis. There was a lot of consenus-building and a lot of team effort to get this thing done."
Gleeds previously oversaw the construction of several state correctional institutes in South Georgia and the DeKalb County jail, one of the largest jails in the country at the time of construction. The company is currently working in Hall County on separate projects involving Free Chapel and ZF Industries.
Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic said Gleeds was retained to avoid the pitfalls that can befall major building projects when they become mired in unexpected overruns.
"With Gleeds kind of riding herd every day, it kept everybody’s feet to the fire and on task for the whole project," Cronic said. "They were the taskmasters."
Powell said the county will continue to look at using program managers like Gleeds on tax-funded capital projects that are either "large or complicated."
"What this project did was instill a sense of trust back to the public that elected officials can manage their money in their best interest," Powell said.
Said Cronic, "It was a government project that was something you don’t hear about a lot: ahead of time and under budget. The results speak for themselves. It’s nice to see Gleeds get this recognition, because in a way it recognizes everyone’s efforts."