Commissioners approve $23 million to renovate part of downtown detention center

Plans to renovate part of the downtown detention center moved forward Tuesday as the County Commission unanimously approved a $23 million contract to fix structural problems plaguing the 27-year-old north tower of the jail.

At the suggestion of a committee composed of Real Property Management and detention center officials, the county hired Sletten Construction to fix the center’s deteriorating plumbing, heating and air conditioning. According to the contract, the work is slated for completion by March 20, 2013.

Sletten Construction built High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs in 2000 and has completed several other multimillion-dollar government buildings throughout the county.

A $2 million contract with JMA Architects was OK’d by the commission to complete the tower renovations in a separate phase of the project.

According to the contracts, the scope of the renovation work is based on a 2009 assessment report that includes a breakdown in architectural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems throughout the facility. The projects include replacing sewer piping, duct work, hot water pumps, damaged electrical devices and upgrading the fire alarm system.

The tower project has been a subject of labor-related lawsuits over the county’s bidding process after the nonprofit taxpayer advocate organization Citizen Outreach alleged it favors union workers and contractors.

Legal issues prompted the commissioners in September to reject four bids for the project. Sletten Construction was one of those bids.

A district judge ruled in favor of Citizen Outreach, which prompted county and local unions to file an appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court. The commission filed papers with the high court requesting that justices expedite the appeal.

During the meeting, Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani questioned how county officials could move forward with the tower contract because a lawsuit regarding whether the project labor agreement is a valid legal agreement under state law is still pending.

County Counsel Mary-Anne Miller said because the project labor agreement provisions were removed, the project could proceed.

“There will be several phases of this project,” Miller said. “If and when the (state) Supreme Court comes back and upholds the project labor agreement, we will put it back in.”

Metropolitan Police Department Capt. Rich Suey, who runs the detention center’s north tower, thanked county officials for providing the resources needed.

The tower houses about 1,400 inmates, with the entire facility housing about 6,000 inmates per month.

Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who represents the area, said he was thrilled to move forward with the project and help put people to work.

“For those who have not had an opportunity to go to the detention center, it’s in real bad shape,” Weekly said . “Glad to be moving forward, and hopefully we’ll see some progress in the near future.”

The comments were echoed by his colleagues, who agreed the building is “hanging on by a thread.”

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at or 702-455-4519.

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