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Eagle County jail expansion creates jobs

Chris Outcalt
coutcalt@vaildaily.com
Eagle County, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Getting the justice center expansion in Eagle County, Colorado job was a big deal for MTech, a plumbing and heating company with an office in Avon.

The Westin was one of the company’s last big jobs in the area and their first quarter of 2009 has been pretty slow. And while Mark Keenan, who runs the Avon office, doesn’t consider the project huge, he hopes it will jump-start the company’s workload.

“That resort work we all live up here for, it’s dried up and gone,” Keenan said. “This is a huge boost for us.”



The county broke ground on the $24 million justice center expansion in November and released the list of subcontractors working the job this week ” about 70 percent of them are local. And while the job size varies for the companies involved, the work comes at a good time for most of them.

MTech often competes with Front Range companies for jobs like this. It was nice to get this one, Keenan said. The company will have about 35 workers on the job.



“This Eagle County justice center project will get our 2009 backlog and work program going again,” he said.

The county got its financing for the justice center just in time.

“The bond markets were a little questionable at the time, two days later the markets just crashed,” said John Lewis, the county’s finance director.



Interest rates on the bonds for the project would have likely been much higher if the county didn’t get the money when it did, Lewis said.

The project includes two new district courtrooms, attorney/client conference rooms, mediation rooms and expanded offices for the court clerk and probations. The jail capacity will also be increased by 65 percent, allowing for work-release programs and a reduction to the costs of transporting and housing prisoners out of the county.

Work on the project is supposed to be completed by November 2010.

The county estimated 214 local jobs will be created because of the subcontractors hired to do the work.

But regardless of the number of local contractors doing the work, the project is going to stimulate the economy, said Brad Keller of FCI Constructors, Inc., the general contractor the county hired for the job.

“Even the out of town workers use local resources,” Keller said. “Every trade on that job makes trips to the hardware store.”

And the bottom line is, Keller said, any project that keeps workers busy is a good thing.

“Certainly it’s coming at a time when the national construction economy is down from where it was,” Keller said. “Any work is good both for the construction industry as a whole and the local economy.”

Getting the justice center contract sure didn’t hurt, said Grant Miller, president of Grant Miller Inc., the company doing the project’s excavation work.

“We’re always slow this time of year,” Miller said. “It’s been a good project for us.”

Miller will use about 15 employees on the job.

Grant Miller is based in Silverthorne but has several employees that live in Eagle County.

“We’ve done a lot of projects in the Vail Valley,” Miller said. “I think we consider that local over there.”

Dave Hicks of S2M Construction CO Inc. said the justice work saved the jobs of at least a few employees.

“The people we have there right now wouldn’t be working,” Hicks said.

About 20 S2M employees are working on the project.

But the justice center work alone isn’t enough for the company, Hicks said.

“It’s getting to be a very weird market,” Hicks said. “I’ve been in the construction industry myself for better than 25 years, mostly in Eagle County, and I’ve seen weird times before, but we’ve always weathered it.”

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or coutcalt@vaildaily.com.


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