Porter County commissioners open jail roofing bids, look ahead to highway garage, other projects

The Porter County Board of Commissioners opened two bids Tuesday morning for a new roof and exterior improvements at the Porter County Jail. E.C. Babilla, Inc. bid $4.3 million and Korellis Roofing, Inc. bid $3.9 million.

The contract will be awarded at a special board meeting at 10 a.m. on June 25. That special meeting will also see the opening of bids for the Highway Garage currently being estimated in the $18 million range, the Health Department renovation, and approval of a contract for bond consultant Baker Tilly for a second bond issue, the potential bond the county is considering taking out as early as Jan. 2.

“There’s a lot of research that has to be done,” said Board of Commissioners President Jim Biggs, R-North. The county took out a $25 million bond at the first of the year after retiring the bond that paid for the construction of the jail 23 years ago.

The county is planning to use $18 million of that to build the Highway Garage. The remainder will be used for the first phase of jail renovations, minus fees, but more than that will be needed to bring the aging systems of the jail into good working order and possibly for work at other buildings such as the Juvenile Detention Center.

State law allows for the county to take out a second bond 366 days after the first. The replacement of the original jail bond at the beginning of the year did not raise the tax rate. A second bond is expected to possibly raise the tax rate in the low single digits.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t get more bidding,” Board of Commissioners Vice President Barb Regnitz, R-Center, said of the bids on the jail after the meeting.

“One I like because it extends the warranty from a 20-year to a 30,” she added, referring to four alternate bids that the county requested. The first asks for bids that extend the 20-year warranty on the TPO roofing system, a type of rubber roof for some portions of the jail, to 30 years. The second alternate asks for such pricing to upgrade the standing seam roof warranty from 20 years to 30.

The third calls for pricing to include pulling out and replacing exterior joint sealants, and the fourth calls for security glazing. “The jail has a lot of glass that’s cracked and broken,” explained Paul Todoroski, project manager of the jail renovation for The Skillman Corporation.

In other business Todorski’s colleague Scott Rogers, project manager for Skillman on the Memorial Opera House, said that renovation is on track for that building, allowing for an early August reopening. The MOH is currently closed for overhauls on all three levels.

Bathrooms are being remodeled, though not enlarged, and an opening up of the lobby are the primary changes on the main floor. “Now, instead of a few smaller rooms, the first floor lobby is wide open,” Rogers said. The performance space is also getting serene blue paint by the end of the week and new seating.

Upstairs new lights have been roughed in, the balcony seating recovered, and drywall repaired before fresh paint that is being completed soon. “There was a lot of water damage over time,” Rogers said of the drywall there. “The good news is we haven’t seen any new signs of moisture coming in.”

Drainage and sanitary preparations are currently being done in the basement so the HVAC system can be replaced at the end of July. Rogers said replacement of the windows and doors is a little behind schedule, but the old ones can remain in place as contractors get to the new ones one at a time.

Landscaping ideally will not be completed until the spring planting season in 2025.

Shelley Jones is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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