County Commissioners go with hiring second firm for new study on present jail facility PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcus Amos   
Friday, 16 October 2015 10:18

With the apparent blessing of the Scott County Council, County Commissioners hired an engineering firm on Wednesday, October 7, to take a look at the present Scott County Security Center.
Cost of the study will be $15,000, according to the contract the Commissioners signed that day.
DLZ has offices in both Louisville, Ky., and Indianapolis. The two representatives who appeared before officials that morning were staff from the Indianapolis office. Scott Carnegie is a DLZ senior planner. He explained that the Commissioners will receive a detailed report covering the current jail's structural condition, a cost estimate of finishing out the basement below the new addition and the possibility of demolishing the old building and constructing a new one.
The contract signing came after representatives of the current architectural/engineering firm which designed and built the new addition had talked to Commissioners Larry Blevins, Bob Tobias and Kelley Robbins.
In that presentation, RQAW Senior Vice President Joe Mrak, project architect Eric Weflen and business development staffer Melvin Beeker huddled with Commissioners to talk about what Mrak described as “...misinformation that's been thrown out about the (old) jail...”
Mrak said that, all along the past 18 months or so, the project to do something about improving the present facility was a separate project. The additional $750,000 raised in a bond issue originally thought to be over and above what would be needed for the addition (and thus was to be applied to the old jail's renovation) had to be used for the addition because bids came back a lot higher than expected, Mrak said.
He added that the Commissioners were the officials that awarded the contract to RQAW and decided not to do any design work on the old jail until the new addition was nearing completion. Though it had been anticipated to open this November, now the addition won't be ready for use until January.
“If you only have $3 million as decided by the County Council (in its most recent bond issue), then you cannot plan to tear down the building because you won't have enough money to rebuild it. To get what this county needs, you will have to spend more,” Mrak told them.
In response to a question posed by Commissioner Robbins, Mrak said there could be as many as 80 beds created in the old building, depending on the option adopted. A total of 890 square feet would be devoted to medical isolation beds by converting two present cells. The existing outdoor area will be converted to program space because a new outdoor facility is available in the new wing, Mrak went on. Rooftop heating/cooling units will free up more space. Construction will be phased so that prisoners can be shifted as needed.
“What a lot of people are questioning is the high cost of this construction. We got a new factory here in Scottsburg that is costing around $400,000, so why is this construction so high?” asked Commissioner Tobias.
“You got ten pounds of stuff in a five-pound bag,” replied Mrak. “This is highly specialized construction. At a factory, you aren't trying to keep the workforce there 24 hours a day. In a jail, you are.”
He added that the cost of sequencing will also affect building costs due to the loss of productivity experienced as sequencing occurs.
The medical area is all negative air flow, too. That's a special way of keeping air in that unit instead of allowing it to flow throughout the entire complex. Plumbing is being addressed through vacuum toilets which pump waste up. Using these will allow abandonment of pipes encased in the present jail's floors, a costly mistake made by its original architects and builders.
Some issues with the present facility being integrated with the new addition were brought up by Sheriff Dan McClain. He said connecting electronics was not figured into the original contract, and his budget is having to cover some of that expense.
Weflen noted that the project's contractor anticipated connecting the two building through a load-bearing wall. “We're having a meeting this week to resolve that issue,” he quickly told the Commissioners. Tobias was disgruntled, saying, “But wouldn't the contractor have known before now that that was a load-bearing wall? Really?”
Some of these issues have arisen because no designs were done on the renovation, Mrak reminded the Commissioners. “Because no decisions were made, nothing was ever designed,” he advised.
The trio took seats in the audience to await the end of the morning's meeting. However, when Carnegie and his associate were seated and RQAW representatives learned that the new contract had been accepted, Mrak and Weflen left.
DLZ associates will have the report completed in no less than 60 days, with Carnegie advising DLZ's conclusions could come “...a lot sooner.”
Sheriff McClain reminded Commissioners that the Sheriff's Department “...has needs over there right now as well as in 20 years. We've got to have the facility to manage what we will face,” he said.
Commissioner Robbins concluded, “We know we've got a problem over there and we are committed to fixing that problem. Money has always been a problem with the County Council, and we're trying not only to spend but to save.”
Tobias noted, “Guys, the monkey's on our backs. No one is happy with the numbers we've been hearing. I've said all along we need another set of eyes to look at this. $15,000 seems reasonable to be sure what we want to do. I don't want to dance just because someone tells me to. Maybe there'll be some things that will have to be eliminated. All I know is we got an $11 million investment over there that's getting ready to open and we've got to have the answer.”
Commissioner Blevins said he's heard from several Councilmen about their unhappiness with the present situation, a new jail addition with no work being done on the old building. “They're adamant about getting another pair of eyes to look at this. It's a step that'll be better for everyone if we go through it,” he remarked.
Robbins said one way or another, he's been involved with the jail project for about a decade. “Maybe longer,” he reflected. “We've spent so much money on this (project), we should be kicked out of the Courthouse,” he added.
With Tobias's motion, Robbins seconded and the Commissioners voted 3-0 to sign the DLZ agreement.