With the Concordia Lutheran School building on West Milwaukee apparently out of the picture, Buena Vista County Tuesday decided to move forward on a study of using a spec building in southeast Storm Lake for a new jail.
The spec building owned by Storm Lake Area Development Corporation is one of several that have come before the county in the past few weeks.
The Buena Vista County board of supervisors at its meeting Tuesday approved a estimate for a design study by Koch Hazard Baltzer Ltd. architects not to exceed $6,500 for design expenses. That amount would include reviewing the existing site, concept planning, preliminary cost estimates, and an option for a public presentation on the proposal.
After the meeting Tuesday, Bill Strawn, chair of the Courthouse and Jail Task Force Committee, said $18,500 had been spent to date on the Concordia study. Most of that cost could be directly transferred to the spec building since the buildings were structurally similar. The exception would be that the SLADC spec building is twice the size of the Concordia site. And, while the SLADC spec building would require rezoning by the City of Storm Lake, that would likely be much easier in an industrial park area than in a residential area where the Concordia building is located.
Stiff opposition to the Concordia site led the Storm Lake Planning and Zoning Commission to recommend to the Storm Lake City Council denial of Concordia Lutheran's application for rezoning of the property to allow a jail. The council has traditionally followed P&Z recommendations.
Legal mandates that women and juvenile prisoners be visually segregated from the general population and overcrowding in general are the major reasons
the county is searching for a new jail facility. Expanding at the current site seems to be out since that would eliminate too much parking. The only areas where a jail can be constructed without rezoning is in the central business district. The most viable option to date, given public sentiment against siting a jail in a residential area, is the SLADC spec building.
"The proposal is not to use the whole building," Strawn said of the SLADC building. He said plans to stack jail cells two deep would probably still apply since that would be the most efficient use of space and the sidewalls of the SLADC spec building are higher than those in the Concordia building.
What to do with the rest of the building remained a primary topic for the board Tuesday.
"I think you have to look at the building as a whole and what it might be used for," said Chair Herb Crampton. He said part of the building could be leased out.
Supervisor Jim Gustafson backed away from his earlier ambivalence toward the SLADC building. "I didn't realize all of the building was insulated," Gustafson said. "I thought it was just a shell."
After approving the Koch Hazard agreement, Supervisor Bill Lanphere said he was informed last week of two vacant parcels of about 3.5 acres each that are available, making a total land area roughly the same size as the SLADC property and somewhat larger than the Concordia site.
"And we've had another one that's been pitched to us in town that has multiple residential owners," Lanphere said.