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Three million dollar jail expansion planned

Brown County Sheriff Gordon Ellis discussed jail costs and other issues with the Brown County Criminal Justice Task Force on April 11.


By Wayne Gates – 

Brown County is preparing to spend three million dollars to expand the county jail.
After meeting for 14 months, the Brown County Criminal Justice Task Force voted to approve the plan on April 11.
“I think the committee looked at all the options and I think we’ve got a good plan,” said committee chairman Paul Hall.
Final approval by the Brown County Commissioners will be required for the project to move forward.
The project is will be done in three phases. Once fully complete, the jail will hold 110 prisoners, with 26 of them female. Brown County Sheriff Gordon Ellis said that another block of cells could be converted to female use if necessary for a total capacity of 38 women.
The county is now working with bond attorneys to secure the best possible financing source for the deal. Brown County Commissioner Barry Woodruff said that the county would explore payment options of ten, fifteen and twenty years on the loan.
Once a financing source is chosen, the project will be put out for bids by the county.
Phase one of the construction will involve a forty person dormitory style addition to the north end of the jail.  Woodruff said that this phase of the project should take about 14 months once the architect receives final approval. Assuming that happens fairly quickly, the dormitory could be open in the summer of 2018.
This new area would require one additional corrections officer per shift to supervise it.
With four corrections officer shifts in place for 24 hour coverage, that means that four additional corrections officers would have to be hired. That would increase annual labor costs at the jail by about $180,000 per year, according to Woodruff.
That cost, coupled with an estimated monthly loan payment of $25,000 would make the additional annual expense of running the jail approximately $480,000 per year.
However, at that rate, the county would actually be saving nearly $200,000 per year in expenses it currently pays to house prisoners in Butler and Clermont counties.
The March bill for inmate housing was $54,000. That rate tracks to a $648,000 cost on an annual basis.
Once the forty person addition is complete, the jail capacity would be at 104, with the expectation that housing prisoners outside the county would not be necessary.
“It’s cheaper to house a prisoner inside the county than outside the county. That’s the primary benefit. It also saves transportation and personnel costs,” said Ellis.
The forty person addition will be all male and for lower level and non violent offenders. This will open up additional cells in other areas of the jail to house more violent offenders.
The next step would be an addition to the sallyport area on the south side of the building. This addition would add an additional six cells when complete, including two padded isolation cells for inmates who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
The area would also offer additional storage and other administrative areas designed to take care of a jail that is nearly doubling in capacity.
The third phase of the addition will be new offices constructed on both sides of the current main entrance to the jail. Once complete, the current offices would be converted to further storage, administrative and maintenance functions for the jail.
Woodruff said he was happy with the plan because it protects local taxpayers as much as possible.
“We are not going to the taxpayers for a levy, but we still have to deal with the problem and I don’t see it getting any better,” he said.
Brown County Commission President Daryll Gray agreed.
“I’m comfortable with three million dollars.  I don’t want to tie the county up for any more than that. It would have been nice to build it bigger, but we can’t afford to do that,” Gray said.
He added that he appreciated the hard work of everyone on the task force.
“We had people from different areas of the community involved in this. We looked at every option and finally decided that it would be best to expand the jail. I’m glad we finally have a plan.”

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