Consultant advises county commission on new jail project

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
A Colorado consultant told the Marion County Commission Monday to look to for a long-term commitment for the taxpayers if it decides to build a new jail that would house both county prisoners and for-pay prisoners from other places.

Jim Robertson of VRJS Inc., jail consultants, said, “It is important…early in the project to determine to spend the least dollars for the greatest impact.

“Know why you need something, how much it costs to operate, where do you put it, and how do you design it.”

Robertson said this would include such things as planning the building around the number of people needed to staff it as well as the types and numbers of prisoners it would house.

Marion County Jailer and Deputy Gary Klose brought in statistics that showed that the Marion County Jail housed 2,403 inmates in 2004.

Robertson said there are a number of positive things about the current jail as well as things that will need to be corrected for the future.

For example, on the positive end, he said the jail staff is familiar with the building and how to manage it. On the negative side, he said, the building has reached capacity with 15 to 20 inmates often housed there.

Sheriff Lee Becker confirmed that extra bedding often has to be brought in to put inmates here and there as well as inmates needing to be transported out, at great expense to the county, to be housed in other counties.

Robertson said a Colorado program the commissioners have committed to go to later this year will “empower” them to make the right decisions.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he first worked around the county jail in 1976, and although he doesn’t know what needs will be in 10 years, it has been easy for him to see that the jail has progressively become outdated.

Robertson said he will need to look at the history of the jail as well as current trends to help determine where the county will need to go in terms of servicing inmate needs for itself.

Commissioners said they didn’t want to repeat situations in other counties, one where the county ran short on money and ended up with an insecure facility, and one where a commission built a jail only to discover it would require far more people to staff it than realized.

Commissioner Dan Holub said if a jail is to be built, he wants it done so the facility has services that will reduce other costs for the county. For instance, he would want laundry and janitorial services performed by inmates.

“I’d like to see it self-sustaining as much as possible,” he said. He wondered if in-jail nursing staff might be used to replace some medical transport needs.

Holub said he would also like to see costs matched against increment increases in jail population-for instance, how much more it would take to house 100 prisoners than 64.

Holub also wanted to know if it is possible to get any other counties to contract with Marion County in advance for jail space.

Klose said in discussing Marion County plans with a jail officer in Wichita, he was told Sedgwick County’s 1,100-bed facility is full, and that the county must contract with 16 other counties to keep its inmates. Only one of the 16 counties was done by written contract, and the other 15 were done by word-of-mouth handshake agreements, Klose said.

He added that in discussing a Marion County facility where perhaps 24 beds might be reserved for county inmates, and another 50 contracted out, his Sedgwick County counterpart had offered that his county most likely would need all 50.

Dallke noted that District Judge Michael Powers had joined commissioners on jail discussion last week, and that Powers’ input would continue to be wanted. He said Powers had addressed building more facility for women and also taking a work release program into account where inmates might only be housed on weekends.

The commissioners and Robertson discussed using technology to save on jail staff costs although Robertson pointed out also that a video camera can only be used to detect a fight, “it can’t go break it up.”

Robertson said jailers soon learn that a small number of inmates cause 90 percent of all problems.

The commissioners also approved a five-year road and bridge plan presented by Milton Lowmaster of the engineering firm of Cooke, Flatt and Strobel that included building a bridge southeast of Florence and rebuilding, with restructured base and a 6-inch asphalt overlay, the four miles of road from north of Tampa to Kansas Highway 15.

The commissioners awarded two bids for copy paper. Sunflower Business Solutions of Newton was awarded a bid of $1,824 for 80 cases of bond paper, and Baker Brothers Printing Co. of Hillsboro was awarded a bid of $344 for 10 cases of blue bar paper.

The commissioners approved an inventory of all county departments which will be used by auditors, and given to insurance agencies.

Communications and Emergency Management Director Michele Abbott-Becker presented the latest record of all incoming and outgoing emergency calls which commissioners noted showed a range of from 11,000 to 13,000 outgoing calls annually.

Abbott-Becker said the outgoing calls are made in response to a need from an incoming call. For instance, a dispatcher may need to locate the owner of cattle that are out, and that may involve calling several parties.

She said the trend in emergency calls being from cellular phones continues with approximately 70 percent of all 911 calls coming from cell phones.

The commissioners approved a $15,040 road and bridge transport fuel bid from Cardie Oil Company of Tampa over a bid from Cooperative Grain & Supply at Hillsboro. The Cardie bid included 4,000 gallons diesel in Tank 3 at $1.9414 a gallon for $7,766, 1,500 gallons diesel in Tank 1 at $1.6854 a gallon for $2,528, and 2,500 gallons unleaded gasoline at $1.8984 a gallon for $4,746.

Dallke said the commissioners needed to take time to discuss what to do to find a successor for Road and Bridge Supervisor Gerald Kelsey, who has resigned due to health reasons.

Commission Chairman Bob Hein suggested they should start advertising the position.

Holub said he would like to take a special session for the decision rather than discussing it in a 20-minute format. He said details should be worked out on a long-term prioritizing plan for county roads. He said the commissioners might want to consider contracting some work out to bring roads up to expectations.

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