Hopkins County commissioners heard an update Monday morning from DRG Architects on progress being made toward drawing up a plan for construction of a new county jail and, possibly, law enforcement center.
Selecting a site for a new jail is one of the first steps that must be taken, and commissioners are now looking for locations that are both suitable and affordable.
“Right now, we're still narrowing down the sites. We are still trying to turn the building, seeing what fits where,” County Judge Chris Brown said. “Our main goal, right now, is to select a site so we can do any future planning. Whether we break ground tomorrow or 10 years from now, we want to know where the jail is going to go and what's going to make it last for the next 50 years.”
The current jail has a design capacity of 100 beds and Brown said the thought is to build something that would double that capacity.
“For planning purposes, what they are using is 196,” he said. “Another thing we are looking at is, do we build it for 148 or 196. Right now, any kind of footprint, any kind of cost estimate initially is going to be for 196-bed capacity.”
Commissioners are also exploring the possibility of having the ability to expand a new 196-bed capacity facility to handle another 96 beds.
“We want to build something that could go to 300 beds within 20 years, 30 years, 50 years so that whenever they need it, the options are there,” Brown said.
Included in the planning concept is for a new jail to also house the sheriff's office as well as a justice center on the same site, if that is ever needed.
“We want to make sure all the options are open,” he said. “We don't want anything that's backed into a corner here.”
The judge said it was still too early in the process to even hazard a “ball park” guess as to the cost of a new jail facility.
“That's going to be the next phase — getting those 'ball parks,'” he said. “'Ball parks' are different sizes and now we have to figure out which 'ball park' we are going to be playing in. Once we have that, once we have our location figured out and have real numbers we can talk about, then we are going to start talking to the public when we have those facts in place.”
County commissioners will continue meeting at least on a monthly basis with DRG Architects on site selection and, later, on design of a new jail facility.
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