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ORLANDO-When push came to shove, Orange County’s tough negotiating team won the day.

Staff negotiators forced Haskell Co. of Jacksonville, FL, a national general contractor, to honor a promise to build the first phase of the 125,000-sf, 652-bed county jail expansion for $24.8 million on a nine-month track.

Haskell also has to give 77% of its subcontracted work to minority-owned firms and businesses owned by Orange County women. Haskell wanted to give only 40% of the work to minority subs.

After lobbying hard to win the contract from Fort Lauderdale, FL-based Centex-Rooney Construction Co. in September 2000, Haskell officials changed gears last week and demanded $28 million and a 16-month track to do the work, as GlobeSt.com previously reported.

Orange County Chairman Rich Crotty and the five commissioners were furious and refused to back down. They plan to sign a contract with Haskell next week.

Haskell officials couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline but a subcontractor associated with the project tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity the job will be done in less than 12 months. It has to because Centex-Rooney is scheduled to start the second, $60 million phase of the project in November 2002 for completion in 2003. The size of the second phase and the number of beds are undetermined.

The 23-year-old jail was built to hold 3,000 inmates. It now houses 4,300 male and female offenders near the 33rd Street Industrial Park in south Orlando.

The county’s procurement committee, which screens and evaluates contractors before making a recommendation to the full commission, had selected Centex-Rooney for both phases.

But after intense lobbying by Haskell and its hired public relations firm, commissioners rejected their own staff’s recommendation and gave the nod to Haskell. Rooney had told the county it could do the first phase for the budgeted amount and complete the work in less than 12 months.

The two-story, first-phase is being built at a hard construction cost of $200 per sf or $38,344 per bed.

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