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Vote likely October 18 for new BV County Jail

Monday, September 12, 2005

Can't come too soon for Sheriff

In a highly productive study session, the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors Thursday forged ahead on plans for a new jail, making more progress in two hours than has probably been made in the past two years.

The supervisors met with architect Rod Moore of Moore & Associates of Omaha, Neb. Issues included changes in the building recommended by the City of Storm Lake Board of Adjustment that granted the county a conditional use permit for the jail Aug. 31.

With a possible Oct. 18 date for a bond issue election, Moore said final drawings would be ready by the end of January or early February with possible bid letting in early March. He hoped to start construction early in April for a nine-ten month project.

Moore said revised plans "flipping" the building so it fronts Expansion Boulevard rather than Ray Street will be completed a week from Monday. A firm jail cost estimate, which he initially pegged Thursday at $4.2 million, should be available by Sept. 22.

Construction can't come too soon for Sheriff Chuck Eddy who said at Thursday's meeting that it currently costs the county $500 to $550 a day to house prisoners, mainly females, out of county. That does not include the cost of transportation or the salaries of the two deputies required when transporting women.

Besides changing the front entrance from Ray Street to Expansion Boulevard, Supervisor Bill Lanphere told Moore that the Board of Adjustment wanted lighting shielded from neighbors and landscaping on the north side of the building. Lanphere said the county is backing away from plans for a decorative exterior. Three storage buildings are slated for construction between the jail site and neighbors in the MCS Addition, making a decorative facade unnecessary, according to Lanphere. Residents of the MCS Addition north of the jail site several months ago gathered 50 signatures opposing the jail, succeeding in getting the City of Storm Lake Planning and Zoning Commission to recommend against approving a conditional use permit for the jail. The city Board of Adjustment still approved the conditional use permit by a 3-2 vote.

"It will still be the best or second-best building in the neighborhood," Lanphere said. While the Board of Adjustment allowed three years for completion, Lanphere said he wanted to finish it much sooner.

The Board discussed enclosing a future alcove area set aside for a future expansion of 16 additional beds. Moore estimated that cost at $120,000, or about $60 a square foot. If the county chose to enclose the area later, Moore said, "The cost per square foot would be more." He suggested enclosing the area as a bid alternate.

While the impact of Hurricane Katrina may not be immediately felt, Moore urged the Board to move ahead before construction costs rise.

"I don't think we're going to see that initial bump for a couple, three months yet," Lanphere said. "We want to secure the numbers" before costs rise, he said.

The Board and Moore also discussed how bringing the county engineer's office and communications center to the jail could make room for Courthouse expansion.

Building costs focused again as a key factor in the jail discussion. The Buena Vista County Farm Bureau has gone on record as wanting a $4-million cap on the cost for a new jail.

"We were at about $4.2 million," Moore said. He recommended a bond election before year's end.

Auditor Karen Strawn said it would take 33 days minimum for a bond election once the Board decides on a cost estimate for the jail.

Moore suggested the county regroup its Courthouse and Jail Task Force as a support group to distribute accurate information about the jail project.

The bond election needs to pass by a 60 percent margin. If for some reason it does not pass, Eddy said the state will likely mandate that the county fix any current jail facilities problems and that prisoner numbers could be restricted.

"I don't think a lot of people have a clue what the jail facility looks like," said Frank Klahs, Buena Vista County Farm Bureau member. "It's a very eye-opening event going through there." As far as jail costs, said Klahs, "If we go above $4.5 million we're in trouble here."

"I think anything in the fours would be good," Lanphere said.

Farm Bureau opposition helped defeat another jail bond election five years ago.



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