Routt County has budgeted $200,000 to revamp its jail, but there's a slight problem... nobody wants to take the job.
"I had eight to 10 plans out, but when it came time for the day" to turn the bids in, "no one did," said Tim Winter, purchasing agent and property manager for Routt County.
Winter blames it on the "construction climate" in Steamboat Springs and other resort areas.
"If there's a more complicated project and there's other simpler projects, they're going to go for the simple project," Winter said.
That's exactly right says Tom Fox of Fox Construction, a general contractor. "The market is so flush with work, it's easy to walk away from those type of (government) jobs," Fox said.
When you first look at it, the remodeling of the jail doesn't sound too complicated. The county wants to add two small holding cells; expand the sallyport where they bring in prisoners; remodel the kitchen and add onto a storage area.
But Fox and Winter say there are several factors to make the county job less attractive. "I think part of it has to do in general with governments and the rigidity in which they operate," Fox said.
His company was one of the contractors who never submitted a bid.
"They (government entities) have to have everything nailed down. It's hard to bid," Fox said. "There are better and easier jobs out there," he added.
Fox said he would have had to spend $2,000-$4,000 on working up a bid.
"Why would anybody risk spending $2,000-$4,000 on a bid when there's a 1 in 8 chance of getting the job?" said Fox.
So what is the county doing to get its jail remodeled? It's dropping the bid process for now.
"There's nothing wrong with negotiating a price to get someone interested," said a desperate Winter. Winter says the county is negotiating with a local contractor who has worked on the jail before.
Going around the regular bid process is something that is sometimes necessary says Steamboat Springs City Manager Paul Hughes.
"This is the exception rather than the rule," he added.
Hughes points to the Centennial Hall project by the city. Hughes said it was such a big job that it was better for someone other than the city to act as the general contractor.
"Where there are a lot of subcontractors, you need a general contractor to supervise all this," he said.
So instead of putting it out to the bid process, the city decided to treat it like a job interview. "We went through quite an interview process... with four or five people who wanted to be the contractor," Hughes said.
A committee scrutinized the applicant's credentials and their past work. "We were interested in people who worked on large, complicated projects. People with familiar with municipal work," Hughes said.
"In the end you're not selecting the contractor on their bid," added Deputy City Manager Wendy Dubord, but on their ability to manage the entire construction.
In the end, Fox Construction got the city contract for a flat fee of $240,000. The entire project will cost $2.8 million dollars.
Bid or no bid, Winter points out that big million dollar projects like Centennial Hall make it easier to find people to do the work during a building boom.
Winter reminisces about doing the same purchasing job in the Denver area. There, the work on the jail would probably have plenty of takers.
"Down there (front range) I'd have 50 people trying to get the job... and willing to shoot each other to get it," he laughed.