Seven bids for general construction work for a prerelease prison center, proposed to be constructed adjoining the current state prison in Ryan Township, were opened at the work session of the Schuylkill County commissioners on Wednesday morning at the courthouse in Pottsville. All but one were under the target cost set for the project.

The base bids were: Performance Construction Company, Harrisburg, $2,514,000; Burkey Construction Company, Reading, $2,535,000; Bognet Inc., Hazleton, $2,558,000; Cresswell Brothers General Contractors Inc., Pottsville, $2,564,376; Panzitta Enterprises Inc., Wilkes-Barre, $2,595,737; Berger Construction Company Freeland, $2,622,403; and Wilmer Schultz Inc., Emmaus, $3,371,500.

Six bids were received for heating and air conditioning. Bidders were: Burkhardt Mechanical Inc., Wyomissing, $259,000; Bognet Inc., Hazleton, $408,614; Marx Sheet Metal and Mechanical Inc., Wilkes-Barre, $464,840; MBR Construction Services, Reading, $467,000; Master Mechanical Corporation, McAdoo, $470,420; and Yanuzzi Inc., Hazleton, $513,400.

Four bids were received for plumbing construction, including fire protection. Bidders were: The Warko Group, Reading, $390,000; Yanuzzi Inc., Hazleton, $398,400; Bognet Inc., Hazleton, $413,290 and Linco Construction Company Inc., Hunlock Creek, $474,800.

Five bids were received for electrical construction. Bidders were: Hirnelsen Electric Inc., Reading, $383,210 base bid and $4,750, first alternative; ARC Electric Company, West Reading, $389,400 base bid and $9,800, first alternative; J.B. Electric Corporation, Minersville, $407,459 base bid and $5,650 first alternative; and Albarell Electric Inc., Bethlehem, $416,000, base bid and $9,800, first alternative.

Commissioner Chairwoman Mantura Gallagher said a meeting will be held with the architect, county administrator, financial officers and the president judge to review the bids and receive a recommendation on awarding contracts to begin the project.

Gallagher was pleased that the bids came under the targeted cost figure of $3.2 million.

Higher costs would likely require a tax increase.

The county has been promised a low interest loan by the U.S. Agricultural Department plus more than a $1 million promised by President Judge William E. Baldwin from the monies accumulated from costs and fines paid by defendants in criminal actions.

Minority Commissioner Frank Staudenmeier still has reservations about proceeding with the project, and favors looking at alternatives such as putting defendants sentenced to be placed under house arrest wearing ankle bracelets to restrict their movements. Staudenmeier pointed out prison expenses remain one of the biggest costs to the county. He also was concerned with operation costs.

Darlene Dolzani, of Orwigsburg, a candidate for county commissioner, raised a number of questions about the bidding. She wanted to know if all bids will be open for public inspection and was assured that after being reviewed they would be available.

She asked several questions concerning the proposed project.

Dolzani concluded, "As a candidate I am concerned about the cost of this project because the county has already committed $3.2 million dollars of its surplus to the 2011 budget and the governor has not set final budget figures. We have no idea how much more we may need to contribute for our services departments for this year or if there are going to be any more mandates handed down."

Gallagher said the state has held up citing the county for overcrowding in the prison because of its project to alleviate the problem and if this project does not go forward, it could mean putting prisoners out on the street as was done in Philadelphia.