Architect selected to design new county jail

Published 3:00 am Saturday, November 2, 2019

An architect has been selected to design the new Pike County Jail, bringing the county one step closer to constructing the new facility.

The commission unanimously agreed to bring on JMR+H Architecture, based in Montgomery, to come in and design the new facility.

A committee consisting of County Administrator McKenzie Wilson, Sheriff Russell Thomas, Judge Jeff Kelly, and commissioners Charlie Harris, District 5, and Jimmy Barron, District 3, had narrowed the search down over the past three months.

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“We met with TCU (Consulting Services) and were given a matrix to fill out of what we found would be most important in the architectural firm we wanted to bring in,” Wilson said. “That made it a weighted score once we had an interview process with the four firms we came down to that we wanted to interview.”

TCU cofounder Ken Upchurch said five or six architects were immediately cut due to lack of experience in designing detention facilities. From there the list was further narrowed down based on more detailed responses to solicitations.

“We sent a more detailed solicitation to them that asked for a deeper level of information such as what consultants they would use and what references they wanted us to check specifically related to detention experience,” Upchurch said. “We also asked details about their past detention center projects, what was the original budget and final contract amount, what was the original schedule and timeline.”

The next step was for the committee to interview the four finalists in person and determine which would be the best fit.

“We felt like JMR+H was the firm to go with,” Wilson said. “Personally the experience they had doing jails and judicial complexes was what was most important. They have experience meeting the security needs of a jail.”

The proximity of the firm being in Montgomery was also important, Wilson said, in ensuring the architect is accessible so that the county can continue to be involved in the process and continue in a timely fashion.

“You try to hire an architect that you feel like you can talk to, that you feel like will listen to you, and has the experience to guide you through the process,” Upchurch said. “Those are three of the most important things to be looking four.”

Upchurch said all four firms interviewed would be good architects to work with, but that the commission had to select whichever they felt the most comfortable working with.

The next step in the process is setting up a contract for the architect, including the price of the architecture work. The commission expects to have the contract prepared for its meeting on Tuesday, November 12.

“Then the work begins,” Upchurch said. “They would have a 10-month design period and then we would go through the bidding process and then the construction process.”

The new jail complex will be built at the Dunbar Drive property, which was sold to the county by the Troy Housing Authority.

The facility will feature a jail as well as new courtrooms, the circuit clerk’s office, sheriff’s department and other features. The current courthouse would likely be used to house the county commission and other county services, including the probate, tag and license offices.