Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes isn’t only in a campaign to win reelection – he’s now also in campaign to save an old jail renovation project he wants badly. This week, Barnes has been trying to get the nine Guilford County commissioners to proceed with a $17.3 million renovation of the old jail in downtown Greensboro in order to move his administrative offices into the revamped building.
The Guilford County Sheriff’s Department’s headquarters currently operates out of the Otto Zenke building at 400 Washington St., right next to the old jail. The department had been planning to move into the old Guilford County jail after renovations; however, earlier this month, when the lowest bid for the project came at over $17 million – about $9 million over the amount the commissioners expected when they began the project last year – the commissioners put the brakes on it. In a surprise move at a Thursday, Oct. 4 work session, they declined to vote to accept the bid.
Barnes said he’s been phoning, emailing and meeting with commissioners in an attempt to get them behind the project once again. The sheriff said that, in light of the board’s decision, he’s trying to get across to them the fact that the Otto Zenke building has major structural issues, flooding problems and many other issues.
Barnes also told commissioners that, while they debate the matter, construction prices continue to rise.
“I said it ain’t going to get no better,” Barnes said. “Prices have gone up and they’ve not done anything. They’ve already got a half million dollars in it.”
Barnes added the land the Zenke building sits on is badly needed as a parking lot.
“None of this makes any sense,” he said.
Commissioner Jeff Phillips said the cost of the project has grown so much he now wants to see if the county might be better off just building a new structure.
Commissioner Skip Alston said the board may not have the will to move forward on the project at the current time given competing county priorities.