New jail could cost more than $18 million

By Lesley Jenkins
Star Staff

   As officials are working to fix the problem of overcrowded cells at the Carter County Jail, they are also faced with the problem of footing the bill for a temporary and long-term solution.
   A short-term solution was previously approved by the Carter County Commission to purchase modular units to house 96 inmates. The temporary units will be placed in the northern parking lot of the existing jail and will consist of five different units.
   Commissioners approved a motion to spend up to $1 million on the temporary structure. Chief Deputy James Parrish told the Carter County Jail Task Force on Wednesday afternoon that the total price for the structure and to make it into a turn key building will possibly exceed $1 million.
   Eagle Company, builder of the units, has agreed to a set price of $920,000. The cost of shipping will not exceed $30,000. The remaining $50,000 will be used for set-up and furnishing the units.
   County Finance Director Jason Cody and Parrish do not think this amount will be adequate for set-up, furnishing and also renovations to the current jail site. Included in the set-up will be site preparation, water hook-up, sewage, electricity, beds, cameras, and more.
   The board members approved a motion to present the findings to the County Commission in June to request the additional funding.
   Because the commission approved the $1 million to be spent, the Jail Task Force will enter into the contract to purchase the units and wait for the commissioners to allocate more funds for the additional needs. Since the county is fighting a lawsuit concerning the overcrowded jail, the board did not want to delay any decisions to purchase the units.
   Both Cody and Parrish do not think the commissioners will have to spend a significant amount more, but they did say that because of the commission's decision to purchase more units than previously calculated, Parrish could not have predicted the definite cost for the total five-unit structure.
   "We really don't have a choice. We were approved for the purchase. We are still under the gun if we don't get them utilized. If we have to go back to the commission for additional funds then that's what we have to do. We did the best estimate we could," Commissioner Robert Davis said.
   Originally, Parrish thought the units could be in place 10 weeks from the April 12 approval date. The company has now informed officials three of the units will not be available until possibly August 2. The two other units will be added in September.
   In other similar business, the Jail Task Force heard from Grant Tharp and Ron Jones, of Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon, about the progress of Phase IV, the final phase of the Needs Assessment Study for the jail.
   BWSC has been preparing the study since 2003 and prepared to present Phase IV at the June commission meeting. The conclusion of the 20-year projection study calls for a solution in seven phases.
   They project Carter County Jail to house, on average, 377 inmates in 10 years, and over 500 in 20 years. To meet these needs, Jones and Tharp recommend extensive renovations to the current facility and new building additions in the seven phases.
   Estimates for the total cost are between $18-$24 million and $25-$35 million, depending on when the county completes all phases. That is not to say that the county has to take the recommendation of BWSC for all phases and must complete each one. The price increases over the length of time if the county postpones some of the later phases and the cost of construction and materials increases.
   Tharp and Jones will present the phases to the full court in June, but they broke down each phase for the JTF on Wednesday.
   Phase one is to purchase temporary housing units to house 96 inmates. Phase two calls for the design and construction of a new detention pod of approximately 77,000 square feet to house 322 inmates. This phase will require relocating the impound lot and acquiring land for additional parking spaces. The new pod is expected to cost $10,822,000.
   Theoretically, phase three will occur in approximately three years, when the county has discussed selling the modular units after the permanent new pod is built. At this time, the design and construction of the new sheriff's office and administration offices will begin. Calculating inflation, this phase could cost up to $2 million.
   Phase four will convert the existing sheriff's wing into a detective wing. The new sheriff's office will be located on the second floor of the current facility after all the inmates are moved into the new pod.
   Phase five will demolish the cells in the second floor and add on two more courtrooms, bringing the grand total of courtrooms to four.
   Phase six suggests adding on a new floor to the detention center for an additional 120 inmates, costing $5,313,000. If the county waits until 2020 to begin this addition, the cost could rise to more than $7 million.
   The final phase plans to add the Emergency 911 call center and the fourth courtroom, costing $2,645,000.
   If the construction phases are spaced out over the next 20 years, the total project could exceed $25-35 million.
   One flaw that Carter County Sheriff John Henson found in Tharp's presentation was that the medical, laundry and kitchen services were planned to be located under the cells. Currently, the administrative offices are under the presently overcrowded cells. The inmates have had a problem with flooding the floor, until the administrative offices are damaged as well.
   Tharp and Jones said they would change the footprints to place the three services out from underneath the cells.