09/26/13 — Advisory board continues plans for prison revamp

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Advisory board continues plans for prison revamp

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 26, 2013 1:46 PM

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Sheriff Carey Winders, left, makes some notes during Wednesday morning's meeting of the county's Detention Center Advisory Board chaired by Wayne County Commissioner John Bell, center. At right is county facilities director Milford Smith.

The Wayne County Detention Center Advisory Board Wednesday morning continued to fast-track efforts to convert the soon-to-be-shuttered Wayne Correctional Center into the county's new jail.

The county is doing so even though the state has yet to say what it will do with the prison once it closes next month. Commissioners have secured the support of local legislators for the state to convey the property to the county.

It took the advisory board less than an hour to review, and to make additions and clarifications, to a draft request for qualifications that will be sent to companies interested in the project.

The documents are expected to be finalized and ready for Wayne County commissioners to act on when they meet next week.

The proposed request for qualifications is for a needs assessment and feasibility study for converting Wayne Correctional Center to house the Sheriff's Office and county jail. Included are a review of the use of the existing jail and the Sheriff's Office Annex.

Personnel and offices now at the annex possibly could be relocated to the prison site.

The county also wants to determine its jail needs over the next 25 years.

The study could cost between $70,000 and $100,0000.

Once the requests go out, companies will have three weeks to respond, the advisory board decided.

The request for qualifications is not a call for bids. Commissioners have the option of rejecting any or all of the responses. They can also interview one or all of the bidders before entering a contract and negotiating the cost to conduct the study.

Board members, particularly Sheriff Carey Winders, once again emphasized that the companies that are contacted must have experience in building jails and prisons. Companies that respond will be asked to provide a list of similar projects they have completed in the state.

Winders suggested contacting the state and nation sheriffs associations, as well as other sheriffs in the state for possible recommendations on companies to contact.

Renovating the 428-bed prison will cost considerably less than building a new jail, which could cost $70 million, advisory board members said.

A $4 million renovation project at the prison is included in the county's capital improvement plan for fiscal year 2015-16, just in case the state agrees to give the property to the county.

An added bonus is that the larger facility could create revenue by allowing the county to house inmates from other counties, as well as state and federal inmates.

Chronic overcrowding at the jail is costing the county more than $1 million a year to house inmates in other counties.

The study will address a number of issues including the cost of operating both jails and the total number of employees that will be needed to efficiently operate both.

The county should not expect just to be able to move into the facility when it closes, Winders said.

That can't happen until the building is renovated to meet state jail standards, he said.

Board Chairman John Bell said he has arranged a tour of the facility for the committee and commissioners for Monday following the commissioners' joint meeting with the Goldsboro City Council.