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4/10/2018 12:15:00 PM
Geological tests discourage site of new jail; Hancock County considers alternatives

Zach Osowski, Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — The original proposed site of the new jail building might not be feasible to build on after a recently conducted study shows putting a structure there would tack on unnecessary costs.

A parking lot adjacent to the current jail, 123 E. Main St., and community corrections building next door was tapped as the original location for the new facility. But a geotechnical survey conducted on the site showed poor soil conditions and a high water table, making the proposed structure more costly to construct. Both of those issues could lead to flooding problems for the building, especially with a basement.

This new jail is part of proposed $55 million project to help alleviate overflow in the current jail, provide more mental health services to inmates, increase jail staffing and renovate existing county buildings. Hancock County residents will vote on a referendum on May 8 asking if the county can increase property taxes to help pay for the project.

Now, county leaders aren’t sure where the biggest piece of that project will be built. Before a final decision is made on the location of the new jail, the county will test two additional sites county officials have designated as possible alternatives to the original location. The first is a lot just east of the courthouse annex, and the second is county-owned farmland about a half mile outside of downtown Greenfield off State Road 9 north of Davis Road.

County Commissioner John Jessup said while the survey doesn’t rule the desired location out completely, extra steps would have to be taken during the construction process to ensure the basement and building were protected from flooding. Building on that site would likely result in increased maintenance costs throughout the life of the structure, he added.

Jessup said the commissioners’ job is to make sure the project uses the taxpayers’ money in the most efficient way possible with the best end result.

“That was the desired location, but if it’s too expensive to build there, we’re going to look at the other options,” Jessup said.

After hearing the geological report from RQAW, the consulting firm the county hired to create the design of the new jail, the county commissioners decided to move forward with testing the viability of the other two sites.

County Commissioner president Brad Armstrong said the testing is part of the building process, and all three locations have been considered options as the county has moved toward a new jail.

“This is why we’ve been pushing to get the designs done and start the surveys,” Armstrong said. “You don’t really know until you start doing the research, and now, we’ll look at the other two options.”

Commissioner Marc Huber said his hope is a site is selected before the election but stressed the commissioners weren’t going to speed up the testing process in order to finalize designs before the election.

“We don’t want to rush,” Huber said. “There’s a lot of pieces that have to be put together.”

Sanjay Patel, project manager from RQAW, said the schematic designs showing how the new building will look should be done by the end of the month. The current proposal is for a three-story facility with a basement.

He said the next steps would be to go to the other two sites, do the same testing and see what the results are.

“We’re going to figure out what works best for the county and go from there,” Patel said.

Regardless of the result of the referendum, the project will move forward, county leaders say. If the referendum fails, the county would then consider an increase to income tax in order to pay for the construction. While the total amount the county is willing to spend is $55 million, Jessup reiterated he and the other commissioners are hopeful the total bill will cost less.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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