Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Lenawee to look for jail location

ADRIAN - Lenawee County commissioners had hoped to vote on the final design for a new jail yesterday, then start putting the project out to bid.

Instead, the group learned it would be financially unfeasible to build the facility next to the current jail, and a secondary site would have to be considered. Rick Stump of Fort Wayne, Ind., architects Schenkel-Shultz told the commissioners that the preferred site on Winter Street presented severe problems with the soil.

He noted the project would be about $600,000 over budget because the soil is in such poor condition that it would be difficult to build the foundation.

“We've hit a brick wall and need to make modifications to keep the project within budget,” Mr. Stump told the commissioners.

He said as far as options are concerned, “there are none short of making drastic cuts to the building itself.”

The southeastern Michigan county's jail has been crowded for several years.

Commissioners planned to relieve the problem by building a second structure nearby, preferably on a vacant lot to the north of the jail.

But the news sent commissioners looking at another option: the overflow parking lot north of the Lenawee County judicial building.

“I think what we've done is, the estimate on the bid [for site A] would be over budget so we're now going to take soil borings on site N and determine if that is a better site and within the budget,” commissioner Larry Gould said. “There is still the possibility that the soil conditions aren't going to be any better and it could be over budget again in which case I'd like to look again at site A.”

The hurdle pushes back the start date of the project, at one time thought to be in August. Mr. Gould said he hopes to get results of the soil tests returned quickly so that construction begins this fall.

Built in 1953, the jail has crumbling walls, too few cells for prisoners, and cramped offices that sometimes double as interrogation rooms. Prisoners no longer have use of a multipurpose room because 10 portable beds line the walls to make room for female inmates.

But law-enforcement officials agree that the jail's biggest problem is a lack of space. For the last several years, crowding has forced court officials to release inmates early to accommodate new offenders. The jail, at Winter and Maple streets, mostly houses people convicted of misdemeanors and those awaiting trial.

Despite its problems, the jail has not been a high priority for voters who have rejected jail-related tax issues three times in the last few years.

Commissioners have set aside $2 million for the project and are paying for the rest with bonds and refinancing other projects. That's why it's important that the project stay within the $8.1 million budget, of which $7.5 million is dedicated to construction costs.

Board members decided that it is important not to reduce the number of prisoners the jail will hold.

The plan calls for a 49,000-square-foot-facility that would house about 275 prisoners. The current jail building would continue housing the sheriff's office, road patrol, and emergency dispatch center.

“It's a stand-alone facility,” said Commissioner Rob Hall, explaining why it does not have to be adjacent to the current building.

But, he added, the likely need to expand the county judicial building - which holds the clerk's office, probation department, and six county courtrooms - made the overflow lot a second choice.

“I'm kind of worried about future expansion of the jail and of the courthouse,” Mr. Hall said. “I didn't want to box in future commissioners.”

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