The Vigo County Board of Commissioners Tuesday morning accepted preliminary designs for a new $57.5 million, 494-bed jail and directed consulting architects to proceed with more specific plans for the project.
The cost estimate is based on projected costs for the third quarter of 2019, when construction is scheduled to begin. However, the Terre Haute City Council won’t decide until at least Dec. 6 whether to rezone county-owned property on Prairieton Road, the commissioners’ preferred site for the jail.
Bob Murray, executive director of the Vigo County Taxpayers Association, asked whether commissioners have a “Plan B” in case the council denies the rezoning.
“We will have; you have to have a Plan B always,” Commissioners President Judy Anderson said.
She declined to elaborate but quipped, “Everybody in the county’s got a Plan B.”
Commissioner Brad Anderson noted there is sufficient county-owned property at the Vigo County Industrial Park to accommodate a new jail.
Kevin Gardner, Vigo County assessor-elect, asked whether the jail might be moved further south on the site “to appease” site critics.
“That’s what we were trying to do is appease other people,” Judy Anderson said.
Leaders of Wabash River Beautification and Develop, commonly known as Riverscape, requested that the jail be built on the north side of the 64-acre International Paper site to allow other development on the property, she explained.
The size and cost of the jail have been reduced from $68 million and 528 beds proposed in 2016, said Eric Ratts, principal architect with DLZ Corp. The complex will occupy about 22 acres of the 64-acre site.
“We’ve had dozens of meetings to get to the point we are today,” Ratts said. “There’s been a lot of good faith by the commissioners, the sheriff’s office, (county) council, a lot of other folks. ... We have looked at every square inch of the building to try and reduce any square footages where we could.”
Plans for the new jail call for two pods of 220 beds each of general inmate housing in two levels, utilizing two-bed and four-bed cells where inmates can be separated by classification.
Remaining housing would include 24 beds in an inmate booking and processing area, 10 to 12 segregated cells, four padded cells and two detoxification units, according to DLZ’s designs.
The facility could be expanded with two additional 220-bed pods.
The design allows one person to monitor all 220 inmates in each pod, said Jeff Hirsch of DLZ.
The jail will have an indoor/outdoor exercise facility, dedicated classroom space and facilities for mental health treatment and inmates with special needs. It will use video visitation.
“Think of Skype,” said Hirsch. “Inmates (will) stay back in their housing units.”
Most jails are using video conferencing, he said, noting that it reduces the need to move inmates and helps reduce expenses.
The complex will also house a new sheriff’s office that will include a training room that could accommodate 75 people.
Landscape buffers would surround the property.
Completion of the jail would come in early 2021, according to a timetable outlined by Brian Kooistra, chief operations officer with Garmong Construction Services, the construction management firm on the project.