Jail committee visits with first of maybe 3 architects

The first of a possible three architectural firms met July 15 with committee members looking into jail options for Marion County.

The Marion County Public Safety and Law Enforcement Center Committee decided at its last meeting to begin discussions with architects on building a new facility, but explained that transporting prisoners out of the county is still an option.

Treanor Architects of Topeka listened as committee members spoke about specifications and how a new facility could be funded.

?We want the cheapest and smallest building to get us by for 20 years,? one committee member said. ?The reason is because we want to see the special assessment go away.?

At a previous meeting, the committee unanimously approved that a special assessment of no more than $10 be levied against all property owners, and that would be their recommendation to county commissioners if a jail was proposed.

The option of transporting prisoners requires more financial information from the commissioners before committee members say they can begin further discussion.

?A module building is cheaper than linear,? said Daniel Rowe with Treanor Architects.

A committee member also interjected that a 26-bed expandable to 40-bed might also be a good option for future growth.

Rowe also spoke about current jails of similar size to Marion County, citing Brown and Washington counties.

?Washington County has a 28-bed jail with kitchen, laundry and booking at 7,800 square feet,? he said.

The jail in Brown County (Hiawatha) is 13,000 square feet and is a 41-bed facility.

?How many people are needed to run the jail?? a committee member asked.

Rowe said it would require 11 staff members full-time, but 911 dispatch personnel could cover as part of that number.

Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft said besides himself, there is only one other full-time person on the jail staff and two part-time.

Craft said that even without a jail, more staff is needed.

?Have you ruled out transporting?? asked Loren Ander?son, also with Treanor Architects.

?No,? said committee chairman Danny Flynn.

If that was the option chosen, he said, it would have a four-bed holding cell, administrative area, 911 dispatch and other needed offices.

After six meetings, some committee members have been discouraged either because budget figures are slow in coming from the county or by the level public trust in the group?s motives.

?Don?t disband,? Anderson said. ?The best start you have is right now.?

?Our motive is that we think the solution is affordable and all Marion Countians will pay for it,? one member said. ?Everyone in the county benefits from 911 dispatch, emergency management and even a jail facility.?

By levying money from each household, each person pays for benefits, a member said.

Initially, the committee contacted six architects and discovered that two of those six aren?t even building jails anymore, a committee member said.

Commissioners Bob Hein and Dan Holub attended the meeting following the architect?s visit.

After answering questions fielded by the group, the commissioners continued to urge members to keep moving forward.

?Thanks for all the work you have done,? Hein said.

The next meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 11, in Marion.

Flynn said he hoped another architect would be present at the meeting to also offer ideas and building information.

The committee?s short-term plan is to develop the two options?transporting prisoners or building a jail?before taking the information to Marion County citizens in the form of town meetings.

?We are targeting Aug. 20 to have a firm plan about an architect, the size of a facility and the way to pay for it,? Flynn said.

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