ELLSWORTH - The Pierce County Jail project is one step closer to fruition: architectural and engineering design firm Potter Lawson presented the first phase of site planning for the new jail at the Aug. 18 Ad Hoc Jail Planning and Specifications Development Committee meeting and later at a special meeting of the Pierce County Board.

Pierce County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Jason Matthys started off the project update by saying Potter Lawson’s design uses the topography of the new jail location to its advantages, which includes a significant slope to the southwest.

“The layout generates efficiency,” Matthys said. “We’re really proud of the product we’ve got, derived from what we need and pared down. We are not recommending this thing be overbuilt right out of the gate.”

The 55,600-square-foot facility would include an 80-bed jail and sheriff’s department, which would house a 1,560-square-foot Huber/work release administration area; a 1,135-square-foot dispatch center; a 1,134-square-foot space for an emergency operations center; and a 300-square-foot medical examiner’s office.

The plan allows for future jail expansion to 120 beds, adding court functions and more public parking. The current jail has 29 beds.

Eric Lawson said the core design is wrapped around functionality, based upon flow of staff, flow of the public and a secured perimeter around the jail itself.

The design was narrowed down to one from six or seven options.

“Elements are located in specific sites for a specific reason,” said project manager Kevin Anderson.

Site plan

The building, though two story, would appear to be one story from the vantage point of Highway 65. The schematic design phase (putting spaces in the building) has been about an eight-week process, Lawson said.

The entrance to the facility would be located off of Overlook Drive south of Shopko, creating a T-intersection. The main entrance lobby would be placed on the northeastern side of the building, overlooking Highway 65. Twenty-five public parking spaces would serve the area.

Since the 9.2-acre lot slopes considerably to the southwest (a grade of about 14 feet), this allows the lower floor of the building to be tucked back into the hill, architect Diana Hogard said. While the jail pod would be two-story, only one story would show to the north (toward the parking lot entrance), Hogard said. Huber inmates would have 15 parking slots on the western side of the building, and a separate entrance.

An impound lot and storage shed are proposed for the southwest corner of the lot. The main sheriff’s department would front Highway 65.

On the northern side, room will be left to build a 23,000-square-foot court facility, should it ever be decided to move the courts from their current location, Hogard said. This was done based on an earlier functionality study by a different architectural firm, Lawson said.

From a security standpoint, a single public entrance was important, the architects explained. Staff would enter a secure entrance on the lower level, near a 25-space employee parking lot. The lower level would also house a vehicle evidence space where investigations could be conducted, as well as three bays for sheriff’s department vehicles and an evidence room.

The medical examiner’s office location is proposed for the second floor in the sheriff’s department facilities, as well as space for investigators. The new facility would be able to house one more investigator and two more patrol officers than what is currently on staff, Matthys said.

Expanded laundry and kitchen facilities are part of the game plan, as well as property storage areas that could serve a 120-bed jail. Two video visitation areas and two additional program spaces round out the plan.

As for the jail pod, it’s sunken into the site and boasts a mezzanine level. The patrol space in the jail would be raised three feet to allow for a panoramic view of the jail cells.

Hogard said care was given to place the facility into the hillside so money is saved when cladding the building. Glass is only designed into the building’s main stairway and lobby, as well as three windows in the jail administration area. This is the only glass in the building (besides windows in the sheriff’s department area facing Highway 65), due to the fact that adding bars or more detention grade windows would be cost prohibitive. However, skylights are built into the jail pod to allow for natural light, a requirement of the Department of Corrections.

The material selected for the building would be precast concrete, layered with brick, glass and metal accents. Hogard cited it as being cost-effective, less expensive than traditional brick and being known for its longevity.

Project costs

Potter Lawson has put a $17.7 million price tag on the project, based upon costs per square foot of recently completed projects.

The costs are broken down like this:

•Jail and sheriff’s facility (includes Huber administration, dispatch, emergency operations center and medical examiner’s office): $13,626,761

•Estimated big contingency (which takes into account changing market conditions, code changes, escalation and bid use, materials cost changes, etc.): A 5 percent cushion of $681,338.

•Construction contingency (takes into account unexpected soil conditions, construction use only): 5 percent cushion of $681,338.

•Construction management fee (based on 2 percent cost of project): $272,535.

•Professional services and owner costs are broken down in four areas: Architectural engineering fees of $815,000; architectural/engineering reimbursable fees (travel, printing, etc.) of $20,000; estimated soft costs (testing, inspections, furniture, fixtures and equipment, etc. This is includes impound lot and storage building) of $840,000; and owner’s contingency (things the owners may change) of $763,099.

Potential savings from reducing parts of the facility include:

•Huber administration: $321,400

•Dispatch: $56,750

•Emergency operations center: $56,750

•Medical examiner: $15,000

This adds up to a subtotal of $449,850; after adding on contingencies and fees of 17 percent, the total for these is $526.325.

In April, members of Finance and Personnel authorized borrowing not to exceed $19 million for the project through the issuance and sale of general obligation bonds. The estimated interest rate on what’s to be borrowed is 3.64 percent and projected tax levy increase in 2017 is $36.50 for a property of $100,000 in equalized valuation. The projected tax levy increase for the entire 15-year length of the borrowing period is $914 per $100,000 in equalized valuation.

According to the 2014 jail operations study, an 80-bed facility would no longer require inmates to be housed outside the county. The county currently pays a minimum of $337,675 to house prisoners in other counties.

“Since the 80-bed jail will have the same staffing costs as a smaller facility and will eliminate the need to house inmates outside the county, the $337,675 currently used for out-of-county housing could be used to offset the other increases in operating,” the study said.

What’s next?

With the schematic design process finished Aug. 18, the design development process is next, where the plan is tweaked and fine-tuned. This includes the nuts and bolts of such things as counter placement, etc. This phase is also eight to nine weeks, and a final design will come before the County Board for a vote Oct. 27.

Phase 2 would begin with construction documents being reviewed beginning Oct. 28, with CD review and final financing work being finished by January 2016.

Bid solicitations and awards would take place in February and March 2016. Construction, lasting 13 months, would begin late spring, with occupancy slated for 2017.

Huber discussion

Several county board supervisors asked if a Huber area is necessary in the new jail. Judge Joseph Boles said he is willing to explore options as far as work release goes, but a lot of sentences he hands down include Huber.

He added that from purely a punishment standpoint, Huber allows inmates to keep their jobs, while requiring them to stay the night in jail. Home monitoring, which is becoming more popular, doesn’t require inmates to stay in jail.

Boles conceded that when someone is out on Huber, it’s difficult to know what he or she is doing since there is no real control. He said the pros and cons must be weighed.

A pro of home monitoring, Boles said, is it allows law enforcement to know the whereabouts and actions of convicted criminals at all times, whereas Huber does not.

“I like the option of having Huber,” Boles said. “Home monitoring has real positives too.”

As of Aug. 18, two Huber inmates were housed at the jail, Matthys said. He also said that no staff would be eliminated if Huber was no more, but staff time would be freed up. Two people being on Huber seemed like an awfully low number, said Ad Hoc Jail committee member and former Chief Deputy Neil Gulbranson. He said he remembers Huber as having a waiting list. Matthys agreed the number to be low, and added that Huber has one distinct disadvantage.

“It’s important to remember that the maximum amount of contraband in a jail comes in at Huber,” Matthys said. “They’re packing stuff in orifices and we don’t do cavity searches, If we suspect it, we have to send them to a medical facililty.”

Matthys also said it’s hard to project into the future the cost of home monitoring contracting with the jail’s current provider, Sun Monitoring of Barron, Wisconsin. While it may be possible to lease the equipment, he said, there is no space allocated in the new facility for setup and processing. It’s also cost-prohibitive as many incarcerated persons cannot afford the costs associated with it.

Supervisor Michael Kahlow, River Falls, said he doesn’t see that just because La Crosse County built a jail without Huber and Jackson County quit Huber, that Pierce County must follow suit.

“I don’t see Pierce County as trail blazers,” Kahlow said of eliminating Huber. “Let someone else work out the bugs first.”

He suggested a more in-depth analysis of the issue. Lawson said the county has up to eight weeks to decide if Huber should be stricken from the design.

An Ad Hoc Jail Planning meeting is set for 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3 to discuss the issue further.

Sixteen of 17 County Board members gave Potter Lawson the green light to continue on to the next design phase. Leroy Peterson was absent.

“This is an efficient building based on need and not want,” said County Board Supervisor and Ad Hoc Jail chair Jon Aubart, River Falls.

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