The Barry County Jail, built in 1970, is outdated and with “significant security and safety issues,” according to a 2015 report. Replacing the aging jail has come up many times at the Barry County Commission, most recently in 2014, but has always been pushed to the background because of economic pressures and/or the uncertainty of a millage proposal being approved by voters.
Tuesday, commissioners voted unanimously for Administrator Michael Brown to pursue a financial analysis and architectural renderings for a replacement jail, as described in the Barry County Master facilities plan from Tower Pinkster.
However, commissioners said they wanted several things discussed.
Commissioner Dan Parker and others, said everything should be on the table, including the location. The first several meetings with the results of the RFP should be held at committee of the whole meetings since the initial meetings would be pointing in the direction the commission would take. Later meetings, when more narrow things would be considered, could be at committee meetings, he added.
Commissioner Vivian Conner suggested collaborating with the City of Hastings and considering a facility for a jail, fire department and other emergency services all in one location.
Commissioners David Jackson, Ben Geiger and Heather Wing called for being very careful when considering funding options.
“We want the best estimates on what it could cost; we owe it to the taxpayers,” Geigert said.
Jackson advised being very careful with funding options. He was concerned about millage, adding, “we need to be mindful as we go forward.”
Wing noted the report recommended trying to provide millage funding for all three projects at once. “If we go back repeatedly, the voters are not going to be happy with five different millages. Maybe we should consider (the jail) the COA and Courts & Law all in one,” she said.
Commissioner Jon Smelker, after confirming that the RFPs would cost nothing said, “This will answer a lot of questions.”//
The April, 2015 study said the jail, at 1212 West State Street, was deficient in many areas of security and safety; building systems beyond their useful life, antiquated security systems and hardware that are difficult to maintain, poor air and daylight quality, line of sight issues, limited effectiveness of processing inmates in and out and limited capacity for female inmates. The offices are undersized for the staff and the IT servers are inside a closet with limited ventilation.
The study included a dozen Barry County buildings and the jail. It recommended upgrading the community building, the county courthouse and animal shelter, to be paid from existing county funds.
It also reported on the need for three considerably larger projects; replacement of the 28,000 square foot, 97-bed jail at an estimated cost of $24.95 million, a new COA building for $4.55 million and Courts & Law building expansion for $6.21 million for estimated total of $35.71 million that would require voters to approve millage to pay for them.
“The three projects total almost $36 million and require an estimated average millage rate of just over one mill (1.0653 mills) over 25 years. It is the steering committee’s recommendation, to the extent possible, to seek approval as a single ballot issue,” the report read.
The target date for a millage election was May 2016 or at the latest, November 2016, “to allow the community to understand the proposal and have time to become comfortable with the millage package before heading to the polls.”