Members of the Citizens’ Jail Committee saw a “pre-schematic” design Tuesday for a possible multi-level Adams County Justice Center that would be constructed just north of the Adams County Courthouse.
Representatives from Omaha architecture firm Prochaska & Associates shared that design at the county’s Wallace Elementary building during the second meeting of the Citizens’ Jail Committee.
The design has space for 154 beds divided between space for work release, minimum-security, medium-security and maximum-security inmates.
Both genders could be housed there. Men and women would just be separated by sight and sound.
The Citizens’ Jail Committee is tasked with making a recommendation for a new jail facility, the funding for which would be put to a public vote.
The target is to have a design concept recommended to the county board at the end of January 2020 in advance of the May 12, 2020, primary, or possibly a special election in summer 2020.
The design for 154 beds is based on the most efficient usage of the space available. That amount of beds is slightly more than the 146 Prochaska is proposing based on demographics and anticipated need over the next few decades.
The proposed jail designs are still preliminary.
Even the anticipated cost has a wide margin.
A 146-bed facility is projected to cost $23.8 million to $29.5 million.
The current Adams County jail, which was constructed in 1962, has out-of-date infrastructure and is non-compliant with state regulations. The only reason it can stay open is because it is grandfathered in to stay in operation under old rules.
The current jail has a 37-bed capacity with another three beds for booking and three special purpose beds.
Additional inmates are housed in other counties’ jails.
Unlike the current Adams County Jail, which has manual locks and a hallway that circles around several cells, the proposed design for a new jail would have master control areas at the center of the area where jail staff look out on several inmate areas.
Weighing a couple different measurement methods, Prochaska projected the need to be 162 beds by 2039 and 188 by 2049.
In recommending 146 beds for Adams County, the Prochaska report states the jail must increase in size to provide the county with a lasting facility while preventing costly inmate transport and boarding, but not be oversized if the forecast is not realized over time.
“I’ve done this enough to trust the system,” Curtis Field, Prochaska principal-in-charge told committee members.
Also on hand Tuesday was Chris Harrifeld, field representative for the Jail Standards Division of the Nebraska Crime Commission.
He said when he heard Adams County was looking into possibly constructing a new jail, he calculated a round project size of 150 beds.
“They’re not trying to sell you more beds than you need,” Harrifeld said.
If the forecast proves true over time, it is the goal of Adams County and Prochaska to provide a pre-planned addition into the 146-bed facility only to meet future demand, if needed, and to hopefully extend the initial investment into the 146-bed facility well beyond the standard facility life-expectancy of 20-40 years.
Harrifeld said by constructing a new jail, Adams County would become a de facto regional jail.
Several of the county jails in smaller, surrounding counties are around 100 years old. The Clay County Jail was constructed in 1923, Fillmore County in 1893, Franklin County in 1926 and Webster County in 1889.
The Citizens’ Jail Committee meets next 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12. Committee members will see more design options.
Before that Nov. 12 meeting, committee members will look at Seward County’s new jail.