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04-14-06 Costs for new Mercer County jail increasing

By Tim Cox

  Engineering and design of a new Mercer County jail could top $1 million and the total price for the facility has crept up another $2 million, county commissioners learned Thursday.

  The final design costs are directly tied to the eventual cost of a new jail, so are difficult to peg exactly. But a proposed contract with architectural firm Shremshock & Associates, Dublin, shows a base price of 8 percent plus other contingencies and specialized services that could drive the price even higher.

  The basic services estimate of $960,000 is based on a $12 million facility. That estimate is $2 million more than the last preliminary figure given by Shremshock officials.

  County officials tentatively are pondering building a 72- to 96-bed jail facility that would occupy an estimated 50,000 square feet.

  Commissioner Jerry Laffin said the jail might be built for far less than $12 million, noting that exact costs will be dictated by the decisions that commissioners and Sheriff Jeff Grey make during the design process.  Commissioners handed the contract over to assistant county prosecutor Amy Ikerd for a legal review. Even after the document gets the legal department's blessing, commissioners plan to commit only to a preliminary design phase that would cost about $160,000 or so.

  The preliminary design phase would take the county to a point where the project then could be taken to taxpayers to garner support. Design work would be idled until the county had funding for a new detention facility lined up, architect Rick Axline told commissioners.

  Commissioners have not decided how they will fund a new jail but a countywide sales tax seems the most likely option and is the method most area county jails are funded through.

  Numerous variables will affect the final price tag. Projects that could drive up the price include placing courtroom facilities at the new jail -- something commissioners are now leaning against -- a vehicle impound area and other potential amenities.

  Also likely to factor into the final cost is what county officials decide to do with the existing sheriff's office next to the jail on Livingston Street in Celina. If the county continues to use the existing office facilities, it could substantially reduce jail construction costs.

  After financing is secured, the final design phase would unfold. The final design phase would include not only construction blueprints but also administration throughout the construction process to keep contractors and subcontractors on schedule, Axline said. The company also would go through a comprehensive process to help county officials select what technology and equipment would go into a new facility.

  "I believe in getting heavy with information early in that process," Axline said.

  The local jail, built in 1939, is approved to hold 15 inmates based on modern jail standards but has at times housed nearly twice that many. The jail's shortcomings pose certain risks, including "safety, security, constitutionally acceptable housing and adequate correctional programming opportunities," a Shremshock feasibility study that launched the jail planning process said.


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