Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

TOP STORY > >Bids sought for jail expansion

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Pulaski County will advertise for proposals from architects and engineers within a few days to design a new, more secure 200-bed jail for nonviolent offenders within the fenced perimeter of the Pulaski County Detention Center, Judge Buddy Villines said Monday afternoon.

The county has not determined how it would pay for either the construction or the operation of that new facility, Villines said, but the cost can’t be determined “until you get a full design and know where it’s going to be located,” he said.

Meanwhile, the county will proceed with the $1 million renovations of pods A and B of the old jail, not currently being used, Sheriff Doc Holladay told the Jacksonville Rotary earlier in the day.

That would move 160 inmates from the work-release center into the old jail, which is more secure.

That’s step one of the four-step plan Holladay has to raise the number of available jail beds from 880 to 1,530.
Although the jail is approved for an inmate population of 880, so far this year it has averaged 941 inmates, according to the sheriff.

In addition to work on the old jail, his plan includes, not necessarily in this order:

Building a 200-bed warehouse-style facility within the fenced perimeter of the new jail to housethe nonviolent felons. Detention center capacity would increase to 1,080 prisoners. Construction costs are estimated at $4 million, with annual maintenance and operation of $1.5 million.

Reopening the work center to house 250 misdemeanor inmates who could help offset their cost to the county by performing work. Jail capacity would then be 1,330. It would require no new construction cost, but annual maintenance and operation is $3 million.

Building a 200-bed secure wing—bricks and mortar—connected to the new jail for violent felons. Implementation would bring total inmate capacity to 1,530. This wing could cost $6 million to $8 million and cost about $1.6 million a year to operate.

Jacksonville JP Bob Johnson has said he supports Holladay’s jail plan.
Work already has begun on the roof, and the county will be able to put more money into that renovation thanks to a deal struck with Siemens Controls last week to install new heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electricity in several old county buildings.

Siemens will lend the county $6.1 million at 3.75 percent interest to update the systems in those buildings, including the old jail, Villines said. All work should be completed before the end of this calendar year, and Siemens guarantees that the loan installments will be made up from energy savings to the county.

Holladay had planned to spend about $400,000 from the public- safety fund to fix the room, get rid of wet ceiling tiles and mold and to repaint. Now with Siemens committed to finance and install the various utility systems, paid for out of future energy savings, Holladay said he hoped he could move 160 prisoners into the old jail from the work-release center sometime this year.

Holladay said Monday he would like the county to pay operation and maintenance to keep the work-release center open for a net gain of 200 beds and begin building the new 200-bed jail for about $4 million.

Villines said he doesn’t know where the money would come from to staff and operate the work center after the prisoners currently housed there move to the old jail, and said until the new jail was designed, there was no way to reliably estimate its cost.

Once the county’s current loan to pay for remodeling the prosecuting attorney’s building and another building for county use are paid off over the next two years, the money used to pay those loans could be directed toward the 200-bed medium-security building, Villines said when asked where the county could get the money to build.

Holladay said that when the interlocal agreement expires in either 2010 or 2014—there is some dispute—cities will have to pay their share of housing inmates and he speculated that they are in for a rude awakening.