Sept. 21, 2012 — Members of Rowan Fiscal Court are working with the Kentucky Department of Corrections (DOC) to make plans for the county’s new jail.
Jeff Burton, director of community services and local facilities at DOC, and jail consultant Desi Brooks, came to this month’s fiscal court meeting to offer free advice.
“What we can do is provide you the basic numbers you’re going to get from a feasibility study,” Burton told the court. “Basically, what it’s going to cost you on average to build the jail and then how long to make it last and what you might need in the jail.”
Burton said since HB 463 became law in March of 2011 that fiscal courts have the option of hiring a private consultant to do a feasibility study or have DOC do it for free.
“It’s a lot of work,” Burton said. “If an architect or private consultant is charging you $5,000 to $15,000 you can imagine what goes into it.”
He said the DOC also will pay for plans and engineering.
“I know it’s going to save you somewhere between $250,000 and a half million dollars by the time it’s all said and done, just on planning and engineering fees,” he stated.
The Court agreed to work with the DOC. The study will include population analysis, anticipated growth in the number of inmates for the next 10 to12 years and how much more space the jail needs than currently.
The existing 78-bed facility houses 112 to 115 inmates every night, according to Judge-Executive Jim Nickell.
Burton told the court the county needs to decide where to build the new facility. He also recommended a five-acre site.
Because of new laws, new jails have to have a minimum of 150 beds. Brooks suggested building a 200-bed facility.
Nickell told Burton that among the five contiguous counties of Menifee, Bath, Morgan, Elliott and Fleming, Rowan is the only county with a jail.
“Explain to the Court about what if Morgan County or Fleming County decides to build a jail,” Nickell said. “Can they do that?”
Burton said the other counties could build a jail but the DOC would have to authorize a certificate of need.
After the DOC makes a preliminary recommendation, counties are to complete an application.
The preliminary recommendation goes to a 10-member panel construction authority, which has 60 days to make a decision.
“The days of building a jail because ‘I want to build a jail’ are no longer here,” Burton said. “They are gone.”
He suggested Nickell get other county judges to agree to transport inmates to Rowan County, once construction of a new facility is complete.
In 2009, the county swapped land with Morehead State University and agreed to turn over the existing Rowan County Detention Center in four years. That agreement has been extended to September 2016.
“Dr. Wayne Andrews has said the university is in no hurry to take that over so I don’t think he has any use for an empty jail right now,” Nickell said in a radio interview earlier.
Nickell said the jail’s overpopulation keeps the county from generating revenue by housing state prisoners.
Burton told him since laws have changed to let state prisoners out early it is hard to know how much money the county will get for housing them.
“A jail is never going to make any money,” Burton said. “I don’t care what anybody tells you. Whatever you spend on a jail is going to be more than what it is going to cost.”
Nicole Sturgill may be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 784-4116.