New Cole County Jail Set To Open April 1, 2011

8 years 1 week 4 days ago Sunday, September 12 2010 Sep 12, 2010 Sunday, September 12, 2010 4:19:17 PM CDT September 12, 2010 in News
Construction continues on the new Cole County jail and in less than a year, Jefferson City residents will finally see the completed project.

Cole County Sheriff Greg White said the current jail was built in the 1920's and by 1985 the county needed a new jail. The jail is overcrowded. By April 1, 2011 inmates can expect to see new and more cells.

"In the new facility, it will have 180 beds in general population, 22 in booking and holding and four medical isolation holding beds," White said.

White said the current jail brings in about 80 inmates a day, but can only hold 53.  Western county commissioner Chris Wrigley said this means they have to transport them elsewhere.

"Currently we pay to have some of our inmates housed outside of our  county at a large expense for the county," Wrigley said. "By having this jail we can reduce that cost by not having them in other facilities."

Not only will the jail have more cells, but new technology as well. The county is looking at having iris scan technology to monitor inmate movement and make it easier when booking inmates.  The jail will have a video courtroom since the courtroom is no longer connected to the courthouse and the new jail will also feature visitation on video.

"By doing video visitation this way it eliminates the ability for them to have any physical contact, cuts down on contraband and increases our safety for our officers and for the public," jail supervisor Russ Bemboom said.

The technology will also help to reduce the number of people needed on staff. The current jail staffs about 24 people. The new jail will need 35 people, plus an additional six people.

"The difference between 24 people managing 53 beds versus 35 people managing 206 beds is a huge difference," White said. "It's maximizing the technology to actually minimize the people necessary. Those are the hard numbers, those are the numbers that it takes to run it."

Commissioners said planning started eight years ago and Wrigley said once they came up with the right proposal the voters supported it.

"They've supported it tremendously, the proposal passed over 70 percent, it's a half cent sales tax, it'll be reduced once the building is paid for and there is also a property tax rollback," Wrigley said.

Cole County auditor Jim LePage said the entire project costs about $46 million. Thirty million dollars goes towards construction costs and $15 million is needed for financing costs. Commissioners said they are right on target with the budget.

"We were never over budgeted, we're actually under budgeted now, in fact the original plan from the architecture, when we had costs consultant look at it, he was surprised and we're right on where were supposed to be," Wrigley said.

The new jail was set to open this fall, but now has been pushed back to April 1, 2011.

"There's been a few setbacks that have slowed us down a bit, getting the site ready, and the weather has not cooperated 100 percent, but that's going to happen in projects and a bigger project on a grand scale you're going to have things like that happen, Eastern district commissioner Jeff Hoelscher said.

Now, as construction continues, White looks forward to a brighter and safer future.

"It's safer for staff, it's safer for the public and it's even safer for our cliental which are the inmates," White said.

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