Jail options released

Published 9:09 pm Wednesday, October 3, 2012

After months of collecting data, hashing out likes and dislikes, crunching numbers and touring facilities, Moseley Architects presented plans to the committee tasked with the what, when, where and how of building a new jail for Beaufort County.
“This is one of the meetings we’ve kind of been looking forward to getting to,” said Todd Davis, the company’s director of criminal justice planning and development, at the start of Tuesday night’s meeting.
Davis and Dan Mace, project architect, unveiled three designs that closest fit the needs hashed out during previous meetings by the jail committee. Two of those plans call for multistory buildings constructed directly behind, and adjoining, the Beaufort County Courthouse. A third plan puts a new jail on an as yet to be determined parcel of land somewhere in the county.
Option A, at a total estimated project budget of $33,487,297.29, is a three-story, 94,460-square-foot facility with 290 beds, to be built behind the existing courthouse. The plan calls for the demolition of two, possibly three, buildings on Market Street: the building housing the Beaufort County Health Department’s environmental-health division and tax office, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and possibly the building owned by county Commissioner Hood Richardson, as it shares an exterior wall with the sheriff’s office. The proposed budget allots an estimated $3 million to construct new buildings for displaced county officers, though no location for those offices was proposed.
Option B, with an estimate of $28,147,642.18, is a three-story, 85,825-square-foot detention center holding 262 beds. No demolition of surrounding buildings is called for in this plan, where the loading entrance is located on the eastern side of the building, behind the Market Street buildings, and prisoner transport will take place down the narrow drive off Third Street, between the county offices and 117 W. Third St., owned by attorney Franklin B. Johnston.
Both options draw the jail’s main entrance on Union Alley, between Second and Third streets. As the plans would require construction on existing parking lots behind the courthouse, Mosely Architects included $5 million in the budgets for a parking deck in the near vicinity. At three stories, Mace said, the proposed buildings would approach a 64-foot height.
Option C plans for a one-story, 84,275-square-foot facility with 290 beds, at a projected cost of $22,795,638.46. Included in the budget is an acquisition of 25 acres of land for the new facility.
Mace and Davis were clear that the three plans represented jumping off points for the harder work of tweaking the options.
The tweaking process was started as the committee reflected on the tours of the newly built Guilford County Jail and detention centers in Harnett and Sampson counties.
Commissioner Al Klemm had a list of concerns for representatives of the firm: cost of maintenance staff; the benefits and drawbacks of a single-level versus a multistory facility and weighing the heftier price tag of stainless fixtures against less-costly materials that are also less-likely to hold up over time.
“A good part of selling a jail to the community is to show them it’s a source of income,” Davis explained, adding that the costs of building a new detention center can quickly be recouped if the county was in a position to lease beds to the federal and neighboring county governments to house their inmates.
Chief Deputy Kit Campbell, of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, had concerns of a more practical nature: the need to have separate entrances for sheriff’s office employees and the detention center, as heavy traffic can lead to escaped inmates; safety concerns for detention officers having to climb up and down stairs to a mezzanine level, and the opportunity for inmate injury.
“Inmates get real creative when it comes to hurting themselves and others,” Campbell said.
Richardson indicated his concern lay with keeping the jail downtown. If the jail moves out into the county somewhere, he reasoned, the courthouse and related businesses would soon follow. According to Richardson, this could lead to a further economic deterioration of downtown Washington.
In a lighter moment, while discussing Option A, in which Richardson’s building would potentially be demolished, Davis suggested Richardson donate the building to the county. County Manager Randell Woodruff seconded the suggestion, sweetening the deal by offering to name the new jail the Hood Richardson Detention Center.