(SALEM) - Plans for the new pod at the Washington County jail call for a 10-foot elevated observation tower, which will allow one person to keep watch over five different cell blocks.
Marcia Walker, of the Leader-Democrat reports, that is one of the features that makes it likely that few, if any, additional employees will be needed once the renovation and expansion project is completed next year.
The discussion about additional employees was launched by Washington County Commissioner John Fultz, who said when designs for a new jail were discussed in 2005, county officials were told 15 more employees would be needed.
But Les Smith, with Shireman Construction, the Corydon-based company serving as construction managers, anticipates only a few will be needed, explaining that Joe Mraq, with RQAW, is working on those figures. RQAW is designing the new facility.
Tom Scifres, attorney for the county and who has been sitting in on planning meetings with Sheriff Claude Combs and Judge Frank Newkirk, said there may be no need for any new employees, because of design features.
"My guess is at most two, but more likely zero," Scifres said.
He explained that the elevated tower will allow one person to monitor all the cell blocks.
"He'll have visual contact to all cell areas and recreational areas," Scifres said.
Scifres added that in addition, there will be another person serving as a floater, meaning only two people will be needed to staff the new pod. He also discussed other features, including plans for video visitation, a room with a screen for people visiting inmates. Inmates will not have to leave the cell block, requiring less supervision by jail personnel.
The new pod will add 204 beds; existing cells would be renovated for use as holding areas or other purposes. One idea being considered is creating space specifically for inmates on work release.
Details are still being worked out, but plans call for a base bid that includes the new pod along with a new kitchen and laundry area. Various alternates can be added depending on costs and financing. Those alternates include a new lobby, an addition to provide more space for superior court, renovation of the office area for the sheriff's department and addition to the sally port and booking areas.
Smith told the commissioners that planning meetings are being held every other week with Combs, Newkirk, Commissioner John Mishler and representatives of the county council. He said regular updates will be made during the commissioners' monthly meetings.
Bids are expected to be solicited after the first of the year and construction could begin as early as next spring.
The present jail was designed for a population of 56. The population these days runs from the mid-80s to high 90s. One major development that has occurred since the old jail was constructed is an increase in the number of women inmates.
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