In early March of 2023, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners took the unprecedented step – after a long closed session – of voting unanimously to terminate a $24 million construction contract with Samet Corp. to demolish the old Guilford County jail and nearby Otto Zenke Building in downtown Greensboro, and build a new Sheriff’s Department headquarters and adjoining parking lot.

Neither the county commissioners nor Samet Corp. ever revealed the deep dark secret that caused the two to part ways. However, the county did pay Samet for the work it had done – largely preparing the old jail for demolition.

This week, in response to a public records request, county officials stated that the money paid to Samet Corp for that work totaled $4.5 million.

Phase 1 of the demolition and construction contract had been virtually completed, and, before the board ended the contract, Samet was scheduled to handle Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the project and get paid the remaining $19.4 million.

Last week, at a Thursday, Feb. 1, work session, the Board of Commissioners approved a new contract with Blum-WC – a joint venture between Winston-Salem based Blum Construction and Winston-Salem-based WC Construction. They are being paid $26.7 million to complete the project, which is $2.7 million higher than the original agreement with Samet – even though the new companies are only doing Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the project, not Phase 1, which Samet Corp. completed.

So now the project total, $4.5 million plus $26.7 million, will be $31.2 million, meaning that it will cost $7.2 million more than originally planned.

The hiatus in work also added another year to the Sheriff’s Department’s ability to move its administrative headquarters out of the Otto Zenke building – something that’s been a very long time coming for the department.

 In 2005, for instance, sheriff’s officials invited the Rhino Times to tour the Otto Zenke building in order to encourage the publication to write how much a new facility was needed. A few years later, massive rainfall completely flooded the lowest floor of the building to a level of eight feet high, which didn’t help matters.