County Selects MC Builders for Jail Expansion Project

Company was the only qualified bid left after second construction firm fails to provide required materials

By Molly Priddy
A guard checks the rooms at the Flathead County jail. Beacon File Photo

On Wednesday, the Flathead County Commission chose a design and construction team for the new jail expansion project seeking to add 36 beds to the Flathead County Justice Center.

MC Builders, a company made up of Martel Construction and CTA Architects Engineers, was awarded the project on Sept. 28. The company bid with a not-to-exceed price of $1,315,000, which means the project costs wouldn’t go above that number.

The expansion’s purpose is to alleviate pressure from the overburdened county jail, which was built to house 60 inmates but often has more than 100 these days, topping out in the 120s. The county has long-term plans to build a new jail, saving money each year through the budget, but in the meantime, needed a source of relief.

With the Flathead County Attorney’s Office moving from the Justice Center’s second floor, this new jail expansion will fill it in with dozens of more beds.

The commission only had one company to choose from at the meeting, since the only other company to bid – Diamond Construction – didn’t turn in a required form, thus disqualifying it from consideration despite coming in with a bid $200,000 lower than MC Builders.

“I’m struggling,” Commissioner Phil Mitchell said. “This was just because they didn’t turn in a form?”

County grant writer Whitney Aschenwald said it was only fair, because in the earlier process of requesting qualifications, a third party was disqualified for a similar mistake. As financially frustrating as that may be, Aschenwald said the county can’t play favorites for its own gain.

“It wouldn’t be fair to disqualify one firm and not the other just because they were lower in price,” she said.

The review committee for this project still ranked MC Builders despite the company being the only choice. It earned a 961 out of a possible 1,000 points, and a recommendation for selection from the committee. Commissioner Gary Krueger said the other company may have come in at a lower price, but it wasn’t evaluated, so the commission can’t compare because it doesn’t know how Diamond Construction would score.

County administrator Mike Pence asked David Mitchell of CTA if price changes were possible, both increases and decreases. Mitchell said the company’s thorough knowledge of the building gave them an idea of everything they would need to install for the jail. He does not foresee price changes.

“I really don’t see any possible changes at this point,” Mitchell said. “We spent a lot of time in there, Martel and us. I think we’ve got it covered really well.”

Mitchell said there were chances for cost savings.

The commission voted unanimously to award the bid to MC Builders, though contract negotiations still need to take place. The commission directed Pence to work with MC Builders on contract negotiations.

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