05/09/14 — County hires architect for jail

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County hires architect for jail

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 9, 2014 1:46 PM

An architect has been selected and $5 million set aside for Wayne County's proposed new jail. All the county needs now is a site for the facility.

Wayne County commissioners are hopeful the site will be the shuttered Wayne Correction Center that they have asked the state to convey to the county.

However, Commissioner John Bell cautioned the board this week that it needs to be prepared with a backup plan, just in case the state does not give the property to the county.

Over the past several years, before the closed prison became an option, the board had looked at other possibilities.

They included expanding the existing jail by building a new wing on what is now a parking lot next to the Board of Elections. That construction would permanently close a one-block section of Chestnut Street.

Other options include building in a new location or possibly a satellite operation.

Yet another option would be to renovate the old Masons department store property on North William Street that the county purchased several years ago.

Bell, chairman of the commission's Detention Center Advisory Committee, made the motion Tuesday to accept Moseley Architects, headquartered in Richmond, Va., to design the detention center.

The motion, which was unanimously approved, also included authorizing Bell, Commissioner Ray Mayo, chairman of the Facilities Committee, and Interim County Manager George Wood to negotiate the contract terms and fees and bring it back to the board.

The architects will look at the funding of renovation versus new construction.

"I was just going to remind you that you interviewed three (architectural) teams at the last meeting, and Moseley was one of those firms," Wood said. "If you agree with the motion, then we would proceed on with the negotiations.

"I just want to remind everybody that we would not finalize those negotiations or the contract until we get word from the state on whether or not we are getting the prison property because that would be one of the sites that we would like under the study."

Once the negotiations are complete, commissioners will receive a proposal for the scope of work Moseley is to do and what the prices would be, Wood said.

"But we cannot do that until we get the property," he said. "The $5 million would come from the general fund balance. We think we should set some money aside.

"We will go ahead and start hopefully with the studies on exactly where we want to go, which is our best move as to which is our best property and then start with the architectural design process once we make the determination. That is the reason why I would like for you to go ahead and set some money aside for it."

Commissioner Joe Daughtery's motion to set aside the $5 million was unanimously approved.

The board is anxious to get the project under way in order to relieve chronic overcrowding at the existing jail.

The overcrowding is forcing the county to house inmates in other county jails at a cost of nearly $900,000 annually.

Building a new jail could cost up to $70 million, making renovation of the former prison a cheaper option.

The board's request for the state to convey the property to the county has the support of the county's legislative delegation.

Commissioners have asked as well to be exempted from having to bring the old prison up to state jail standards -- at least initially. Bell, who works in probation and parole, is opposed to the exemption. Nor has it been supported by the Sheriff's Office.

Bell also has urged the county not to use a provision in the 2013-14 state budget that closed the prison that would allow a county to lease a closed state prison and to be exempt from compliance with minimum jail standards. The exemption would apply for as long as the lease is in effect.

The county could put a "lot of work" and money into the prison only to have the state take it back, he said.