Consulting firm proposes jail facility of $19.6 to $28.9 million

Published 3:00 am Monday, July 23, 2018

A third party consulting firm has proposed that a new Pike County Jail be 41,000 sq. ft. and could cost between $19 million to $28 million.

“Every client immediately gets sticker shock,” said Ken Upchurch, cofounder of TCU Consulting Services. “We’re very confident you can make the program for less than shown here. Escalation costs and contingency numbers are built into this, because something will always come up during construction that you want to do a little different and the numbers go up.”

The firm presented seven possible options for a 129-inmate facility to the Pike County Commission Monday night.

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Six of the options would situate a three-story jail adjacent to the existing courthouse, while one would create a more sprawling single-floor facility near the Pike County Road Department engineering maintenance area.

Option one is to construct the jail in the parking space for the existing jail and courthouse and would include a parking facility, a building for the sheriff’s office, an office for the district attorneys, space for juvenile probation and storage for voting machines. The jail would have a connector to the courthouse and would include renovations to the existing courthouse. With this option, the commission could move its offices from the public health department back into the courthouse in the sheriff’s vacancy. The projected cost for this option is $28.9 million

Option two is for the jail to be placed in the same location, but the sheriff’s office would remain in the courthouse, the district attorney’s office would not be moved and there would be no additional space for juvenile probation or storage for voting machines. This option is projected to cost $19.6 million, the cheapest alternative.

Option three is the same as the second option, with the addition of a sheriff’s office at the facility, freeing space in the courthouse for the commission offices. The projected cost for this option is $21.7 million.

Option four is to construct the new facility at the site of the current jail, which Upchurch said has the most logistical problems.

“The current inmates would need to be located off-site, which brings about all sorts of negative logistic issues,” Upchurch said.

The total cost for this option comes to $24 million, which includes the cost for relocating and transporting prisoners.

Option five is to construct the jail on the other side of the courthouse to the north. This eliminates the need for a parking deck because existing parking would not be changed. However, Upchurch said the building would need some special foundations because it would be built partly on a ravine. This would cost approximately $20.6 million.

Option six is similar, except for the addition of a facility for the sheriff’s office, bringing the total to $21.8 million and freeing space in the courthouse for the commission to move back in.

The final option Upchurch called the “dreaming big” option. “We looked at taking it off-site,” he said.

This option would have the new facility constructed at the Road Department engineering maintenance area. The facility would be one-story and would house court administration, judges, space for juvenile probation and storage space for voting machines. There would also be room for the district attorney’s office at the site. The projected cost totals $27.9 million, but Upchurch said it is the most economically reliable for the future in the case of expansion being needed.

“From a standpoint of construction and growth, it is much more economical going offsite, Upchurch said. “The downside of a downtown site is if you ever have to add, you have some issues.”

The jail report delves much deeper than just the projected costs, location and number of beds and square footage of the new jail facility as well.

Upchurch explained that the amount of beds is based on the analysis of a variety of factors including current average inmate numbers, population growth, trends in court cases filed, separation requirements and more.

The 129-inmate figure is estimated to be enough beds through 2037.

The jail study is not the only study the company has completed. An analysis of what it would take to operate the 41,000 square foot facility found that the number of employees needs to be increased from 13 to about 37, and the budget needs to be raised from just over $500,000 now to $1.513 million based on a 2021 opening of the jail.

Upchurch said these are all relative numbers though and commended Sheriff Russell Thomas for running an efficient system on a skeleton crew as it is.

Chairman Robin Sullivan said the operation of the jail is one of the major concerns for the commission, as no funding other than recently raised court fees has been secured for the extra expenditures in the budget.

“Some of things that stick out are the yearly budget that’s going to be increased, the amount of employees that is going to be increased; some of that is over 200 percent more,” Sullivan said. “We’ve got the funding for the construction, we’ve just got to figure out which model to go with. But the court costs will be a very minimal help – I wouldn’t guess it would cover six months.”

The commission imposed a temporary sales tax of 1.5 percent in the majority of the county and 0.5 percent in the Troy corporate limits in October 2017 to fund the construction of the facility, but that money is prohibited from going to any other expenditures, including operating costs.

Upchurch encouraged commissioners to go through the full report and digest it, evaluate it and bring back questions for him at the next meeting as the commission works to figure out the best solution to the issue.

“What is the most beneficial strategy based on the information we’re going to provide you? That is the main question you’ve got to answer. All of these options  have unique advantages and challenges …

“The worst thing you can do is rush to a conclusion.”