By Tim Cox
Mercer County officials got their first glimpse of what the proposed new county jail would look like -- if county voters eventually approve a tax issue to pay for the project.
Architects from Shremshock Associates, Dublin, showed designs of the floor plan and explained the various spaces to Mercer County Commissioners and Sheriff Jeff Grey on Tuesday. The architects also shared more striking "vignettes" -- computer-generated renderings that depict the inside and outside of the proposed 100-bed, 50,000-square-foot jail.
Commissioners have said they plan to put a countywide sales tax issue on the ballot sometime next year to pay for the estimated $12 million lockup. The jail is to be built on county-owned land in between the county home and Foundations Behavioral Health Services on state Route 29 west of Celina.
Architect Rick Axline said designers have achieved an efficient facility designed to limit the number of staff needed to run the facility.
"Sightlines are central to the facility. It's got the strongest sightlines of any facility I've ever designed," Axline said. Good sightlines allow jailers to see all inmates from a central point, whether they are in their cells, in the recreation area or in a classroom designed for social programs.
"This design will not allow any inmates to be unobserved at any time," Axline said.
The proposed floor plan has an odd shape; Axline called it "abstract." The unusual shape is necessary so that spaces inside the jail are properly located to ensure connectivity between them. The main spaces include intake/booking, inmate housing, support services, administration and the public area. Some spaces -- such as booking and housing -- need to be close to each other for security and efficiency purposes, Axline said.
The computer renderings of the outside of the facility show an exterior of metal and brick. The building will be situated on the property so only a relatively narrow facade faces state Route 29 and ensuring the building won't overwhelm neighboring structures, Axline said.
Architects also discussed some of the facility's more unique features, including a proposed video visitation system. The cell blocks include rows of video visitation booths that will allow inmates to meet visitors through a computer monitor and telephone handset without leaving the confinement of the cell block. The feature will mean less staffing to escort inmates to a visitation area and to monitor them after they are there.
"These spaces are going to save the taxpayers of Mercer County hundreds of thousands of dollars every year," Axline said.
Most of the jail's proposed space is dictated heavily by the Bureau of Adult Detention and the American Correctional Association.
"Those are the guys who drive the size and spaces in the facility," Axline said. "This facility is not a collaboration between the sheriff and commissioners. It's all pretty much dictated by the Bureau of Adult Detention."