Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

TOP STORY >> Lonoke jail construction set

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

After 15 years of trying every which way to expand the old jail or build a new one, Lonoke County officials were smiling, slapping backs and shaking hands after a Cabot company was the apparent low bidder for a new 142-bed jail.

“I never dreamed we’d be able to build everything with the money we had,” said Tim Lemons, a Cabot engineer and quorum court member.

“It’s a wonderful day for the county,” said building committee chairman Larry Odom. “A 15-year battle with a whole lot of effort with a whole lot of people — especially the voters that approved the sales tax,” Odom said.

“Looks like you all went to the same school,” Troutman said, noting that 11 of the 12 other bidders all were within about half-a-million dollars of that amount.

“This is outstanding,” said Lemons. “We’re in the money and within our budget.”

County residents voted for a one-year, one-penny sales tax dedicated to jail construction. Collection of that tax stopped Sept. 30, and it raised nearly $6.25 million.

If the county accepts the low bid—architect Erik Jorgensen will conduct a line-by-line review of the bids — construction can begin.

“Everyone wins here—the people of Lonoke County, officials including the sheriff, the people of the city of Lonoke, which will get the jail moved from a residential neighborhood to an industrial part, and even the jailers and inmates, who will be housed in a safer, legal jail,” Lemons said.

“A Cabot contractor got the job and many of the construction jobs are likely to go to Lonoke County residents, Lemons said.

“I feel good,” said Sheriff Jim Roberson. “I got a lot of jail. It looks like everything we wanted.”

“Judge Troutman said it would come in (affordable) and Chief Deputy White worked hard on the design,” Roberson said.

Designed for 142 inmates, it will hold as many as 160, Roberson said, or even 170 with beds in the common space.

It also allows for video visitation or arraignment.

Greg Gladden of Gladden Construction also built the Boone County jail, Troutman said.

“But 400 days (construction time) won’t get it,” Troutman said. “I want it by Oct. 1.”

Some prisoners in the current decrepit county jail may have been in kindergarten when County Judge Charlie Troutman, Odom and a small handful of other current quorum court members first tackled the problem.

GAG Builders — that’s Gladden Construction of Cabot — bid about $5.48 million to build the 35,000-square-foot building, including lockup, offices, a courtroom big enough for a jury trial and the 911 dispatch office. That was about $1.1 million less than the high bid, submitted by Key Construction of Wichita, Kan.

The next low bid was about $5.57 million submitted by Noacon of Shirley.