A new shooting range for Kane County sheriff's deputies will cost nearly twice as much as the plan county board members agreed to last year.
The sticker shock is the result of a flawed, free cost estimate from a company the county has had problems with before.
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Deputies need a new shooting range for practice and to meet mandatory certifications that guard against lawsuits when officers use weapons in the field. The old shooting range, on Fabyan Parkway, became unusable when 18 inches of water flooded the unkept property last year and became contaminated with lead.
With eyes on redeveloping the Fabyan campus anyway, the county board agreed to $67,000 worth of architectural work on a concept for a new shooting range that would be constructed at the judicial campus.
After that work, officials received a cost estimate of the building from Wight & Co. The organization has a long-standing relationship with the county's planning for future capital projects. But in 2007, the county received a $1.5 million settlement from Wight & Co. and three other businesses stemming from the installation of a lead-based roof at the judicial center. The roof leaked and contaminated ponds at the campus with lead.
Despite that, the county's relationship with the company continued, including a free estimate on the construction costs of the new shooting range. That estimate put the project at about $1.07 million. But when the actual price came back for the work from contractors, the lowest bid was $1.89 million.
Sheriff Pat Perez said he didn't want to put too much blame on Wight & Co.
"I'm not going to throw salt at them because they did it as a favor," Perez said. "But sometimes when you get something for free, it ends up not being worth it in the long run."
Given the unexpected cost overrun, the county board's Judicial and Public Safety Committee Friday initially moved to table the matter for 30 days. It reversed that decision after learning the current bids would expire before then, possibly resulting in an even higher price. The committee decided to keep the project on track for a full county board vote.
The debate between now and that vote will be about how to pay for the project.
Perez will push for the use of a portion of $2.1 million in surplus funds his office collected from housing U.S. Marshal inmates in open beds at the jail last year. In years past, such surpluses would be moved into an overall capital projects fund. However, last year, a portion of surplus dollars was used to fund future pension obligations and raises for county employees.
The county's finance department has not closed the books on the 2013 fiscal year. Officials could not verify exactly how much of a surplus might be available to fund the shooting range and other competing capital projects, such as a new facility for the coroner.