Guilford County government just flushed $421,000 in taxpayer money down the commode.

Actually, the county didn’t exactly do that, but the effect is the same since the county has now spent that amount of money with zero to show for it.

That amount, $421,000 and change, is how much Guilford County spent on preliminary architectural plans, other design work and a bid compilation effort for a project that was bid out to contractors recently but that is now dead.

That money is what Guilford County spent in the now defunct effort to renovate the old Guilford County jail in downtown Greensboro to transform it into the new home of the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department’s administrative offices. The plan – known as the Law Enforcement Center (LEC) project – was to tear out walls and jails cells, revamp the interior and upgrade the infrastructure to create virtually a new building that would serve the Sheriff’s Department and some state-run justice services such as probation and parole.

For most of 2017 and 2018, the project looked like a done deal; however, a number of factors came together to kill the project – after, of course, the county had already put a tremendous amount of staff time, effort and money into it.

Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Alan Branson – one of the commissioners who wanted to see the LEC project move forward – said the votes are no longer there to proceed, and, rather than fix up the old jail, he said, the county is likely to blow it up and haul it away.

“It looks like now we’ll need to axe the LEC and build a new building,” Branson said.

Branson said it tears him up to see the county cough up over four hundred grand with zero to show for it, but he said right now there appears to be little that can be done about it.

A lot of factors came together to kill the LEC project that seemed so certain that the county put nearly a half million dollars into it.

For one thing, when the bids came back on the cost of the project recently, the lowest bid was over $17 million – more than twice the number on the price tag the commissioners were expecting to see when they began moving forward on the LEC project last year.

Also, former Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes was a strong advocate for the LEC project; however, Barnes is just that, a former sheriff. Sheriff Danny Rogers, who recently met with a committee of commissioners to discuss the fate of the LEC, expressed a desire not to renovate the old jail. There also seems to have been some unexpected issues that drove cost up that were revealed as the project was prepared for the bid stage.