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Task Force gets $3.6M jail addition option

architect626By Wayne Gates –

Options are starting to come together for the Brown County Criminal Justice Task Force.
On June 21, the committee was presented with the option to add two 40 person dormitories and two eight room administrative spaces to the current sheriff’s office by Portsmouth architectural firm TSHD Architects.
The total cost would be $3.6 million.
If completed, the addition would give the jail a total capacity of 148, with 80 prisoners in two dormitories and 68 in traditional two-person cells.
The male-female breakdown was not discussed, but the committee has discussed making one of the dormitories for females in the past.
A capacity of 108 men and 40 women would be within current needs and not require housing inmates in Butler County, where females are now being housed.
With the reopening of the jail, Brown County is still expected to spend roughly half a million dollars a year to house females and overflow males in Butler County.
Committee member Greg Lang also briefed the committee on some free help from the National Institute for Corrections, which is part of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Lang said once help is requested from Brown County Sheriff Dwayne Wenninger, the NIC would send experts to Brown County to study the local criminal justice system and make recommendations.
“They will then compile a comprehensive report and present it to the committee and the public for us to consider,” Lang said.
“They will look at historical data from the jail and court system, policies and procedures, probation and other information and give us data driven numbers that will help drive the information on what size of facilities we will need in the future.”
Lang added that the study will be free to the county.
“I think this will be one of the best resources we have.  It’s an independent assessment that’s not affected by politics, opinion or any other factors,” Lang said.
He added that he expects the process to take about sixty days before the committee will receive a report.
Following the meeting, Task Force Chairman Pall Hall said the group was still very much in fact-finding mode.
“We’ve got to look at putting all of the courts together for security, cost efficiency and other benefits,” Hall said.
“We also have to take a look at what we can do to try to deal with the drug problem at a local level.”
He added that he was pleased with the information presented by the architects on adding onto the current jail.
“We know now that we have a plan that will work.  Considering that other counties have looked at spending $15-20 million, if we have a solution for 3 and a half to four million, that’s an incredible accomplishment,” Hall said.
“We don’t want to stop there, we want to look at the whole picture, but at least we have a real firm number where we know we can stay in the jail business for 3 and half to four million dollars.”
He added that the committee still had to answer the big question of whether to add on to the current jail or start from scratch.
“Would we still be better off building brand new because of the efficiency of a new building?  Let’s say we build a new one for $12 million, but we save $500,000 a year on the cost of doing business, we have to look at that,” Hall said.
The next meeting for the task force was set for August 9.

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2016 News Democrat