Eau Claire County jail project nearly $1 million under budget - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Eau Claire County jail project nearly $1 million under budget thanks to tax break

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Eau Claire County (WQOW) - A major construction project in Eau Claire County is under budget, thanks to a tax break.  The Eau Claire County jail project and courthouse remodel was budgeted at more than $58 million.  The project is almost $1 million dollars under budget.

Eau Claire County's building committee didn't take into account the fact that it's exempt from paying sales tax on construction materials.

"We did not know this was going to happen. When we bid it out, all of the sales tax was included from the contractors," Jim Dunning, chairman of Eau Claire County's Building Committee.

A tax break just might be Eau Claire County's big break on a big construction project.

"Normally the vendor would have purchased the material, paid the sales tax, charged the whole cost of the material plus sales tax to the county as part of the invoice. With this, Market and Johnson bought the materials, charged us for the materials and saved us the cost of the sales tax," says Dunning.

About $900,000 in sales tax savings.  That gives the county some wiggle room, and we asked what can be done with that money.

"That will be discussed. Are these projects and programs the county wants to pursue? If the county wants to pursue them, what's the best way to pay for them? Do we do it under the construction budget, do we do them under capital projects, or do we not do them at all," Dunning asks.

"We don't want to have the embarrassment of having to come back to the board and back to the public and saying we screwed up, we messed up how much this is going to cost and we need more money, because that's just not tolerable," says Eau Claire County board member John Manydeeds.

One project the county is considering is remodeling the juvenile detention center, at a cost around $275,000.

"We opened in 1989, and I think we had something like 15 or 16,000 kids come through here, and we've never had a new paint job, never had new carpet, so we're due," says Rob Fadness, the Eau Claire County Children's Court Services Director.

The proposal also includes moving the intake entrance, so juveniles that come into the center don't have to walk past others already in the facility.

"Our thought was, because the population has been down, which is a good thing, that we could better utilize our space," Fadness says. "Certainly it would be the last thing that we'd have to do to the detention center for maybe the next 20 years."

It'll ultimately be up to the county's building committee as to whether to spend the savings or to keep it.

If the committee chooses not to spend the money on the juvenile center, it may decide to borrow for the project next year.

Then it would be up to the county board to vote on the project. The remodel of the county courthouse is expected to be finished in December. The jail was completed last summer.

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