County selects firm to create new jail

An architectural firm has been selected to study and design a new Fayette County jail.

The Fayette County Commissioners passed a resolution July 24 accepting the statement of qualifications for Shremshock Architects, Inc. The firm is based in New Albany, Ohio.

“The other companies were very well qualified too, we just felt comfortable with these folks,” said commissioner Dan Dean.

According to documents filed with the commissioners, two other architectural firms submitted qualifications to the county for the jail study and design project: DLZ Architecture, Inc., of Columbus, and Poggemeyer Design Group from Hilliard. Both firms have previously been involved in other county projects, including bridges, roads and sewer systems, said Dean.

The county is working now to finalize the contract for Shremshock Architects that will allow the firm to perform a feasibility study prior to designing plans for a new jail. The study is expected to take several months to complete and will be inclusive of county population and arrest reports from all law enforcement agencies in the county.

The current county jail holds around 60 inmates per day but only has the square footage to house half that number if it were to meet current state standards. Dean said the architectural study may show that the county needs to build a new jail to house 100 or more inmates daily to accommodate for population growth and arrests.

Shremshock architects have designed hundreds of detention facilities nationally and internationally with local projects, including the Franklin County Detention Center in Columbus and the Madison Correctional Institution in London.

Shremshock’s Celina, Ohio project was the 45,000 square-foot Mercer County Adult Detention Facility with a 104-bed capacity for inmates.

The Mercer facility floor plan was designed to allow for future expansion, according to the architectural documents, and was constructed with efficient design techniques. Dean, who has visited the facility, said the floor plan keeps the women and men inmates completely separate and pods can be enlarged to accommodate more inmates as needed.

“We went with the sheriff (Vernon Stanforth) and looked at a jail Shremshock built in Mercer County and we liked the design. It was approximately the same size as what we expect ours will be. The Mercer County Sheriff there really liked it and their commissioners really liked it too,” said Dean.

Some Fayette County residents have asked why the county isn’t using a local firm to build the new jail. Dean said local building firms do not have the advanced qualifications to build detention facilities.

“It’s a very specialized field of architects in building jails and other detention centers. All of the ones we have looked at have built enough facilities to house over 40,000 beds combined. They’ve specialized in the jail architectural business for many years,” said Dean.

But, said Dean, that does not mean local contractors won’t be used during the construction process.

“When it comes time to build the jail, the winning contractor bid will more than likely look at local contractors to help assist in the construction. The local guys know where to get the good supplies, know how to build, know where to get the workers, it makes sense,” said Dean.

For now, the county is focused on the feasibility study and the preliminary design. To pay Shremshock Architects for this work, the county will appropriate funds from its Budget Stabilization Account.

“That’s a fancy way of saying our ‘rainy day fund.’ The Ohio Revised Code calls it the Budget Stabilization Account,” said Dean.

The cost for the study and design work has not yet been finalized but will be made public when the contract is signed.

“We have to have the architectural feasibility study to see what size jail we need, and also the design, so we know what we need to build and we know what the cost is. It requires spending a little bit of money up front to discover what you need,” said Dean.

The final design will then be reviewed by the county’s judges, sheriff’s office, commissioners, and by the Ohio Bureau of Corrections, “because they have to put their blessing on it as well,” said Dean. There has been no indication as to where the new facility would be located.

Once the county determines how much it will cost to build and operate the new jail, a determination will be made as to how to pay for it.

According to Shremshock Architects, the Mercer County Adult Detention Facility cost $12 million but Dean said he thought the final cost was closer to about $20 million. Dean said the county can expect to pay something between that price range for the new Fayette County Adult Detention Facility.

“We will determine how much the county can fund through general revenue bonds, which means that we have to have enough general revenue to make the monthly payments. More than likely there will be a voter-ask or levy proposed to make up any difference in what the county can’t cover,” said Dean.

Dean said Ohio Legislature recently changed the law to allow for both building and operating levies to be consolidated into one levy instead of having to place them separately on the ballot for voters. “Senator (Bob) Peterson helped us with that,” Dean said.

“We’re looking at taking the better part of a year to get the design process done. Hopefully by this time next year we will have a design and cost estimate,” said Dean.

The book outlining Shremshock Architects qualifications and other detention facility projects is available for public inspection at the commissioner’s office on the fourth floor of the county building, located at 133 S. Main Street in Washington Court House.

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Contract with Shremshock Architects, Inc., being finalized now

By Ashley Bunton

Reach Ashley by calling her at (740) 313-0355 or by searching for @ashbuntonF