11/11/13 — Companies seek jail contract

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Companies seek jail contract

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 11, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County received responses from seven companies interested in conducting a study of the feasibility of converting the former Wayne Correctional Center into a new jail for the county.

The study also will review the use of the existing jail and the Sheriff's Office Annex on U.S. 117 North.

Last Wednesday was the deadline for companies to respond to the request for qualifications.

Responding were Brennan and Associates, the company that did the recent county jail renovation, Moseley Architects, Stewart Cooper Little, NHA Works, JKF Architects, MGT of America, and Ware Bonsall Architects.

Noelle Woods, the county's purchasing manager, told Wayne County commissioners last week that she had worked with Sheriff Carey Winders to compile a vendors base.

The requests for qualifications were sent out on Oct. 2 to 15 firms. The project was also advertised on the county website and in several newspapers, she said.

Once the qualifications packages are opened, county staff will review and possibly interview a short list of contenders, she said. After the reviews are complete, the staff will meet with the county's Detention Center Advisory Board to recommend a firm.

The staff meeting and review will take place this week. The Detention Center Advisory Board will meet next week.

The Wayne Correctional Center on Stevens Mill Road near Cherry Hospital closed in October because of state budget cuts.

Commissioners have gathered support from local legislators to have the state give it to the county.

All of Wayne County's legislators are "on board" with the plan, Commissioner John Bell said. Bell is chairman of the Detention Center Advisory Board.

State Sen. Louis Pate said that he and the other members of the local legislative delegation had not opposed the prison closing because they knew of the county's interest in using the facility as a jail.

"There is a procedure that the state follows when it gets rid of surplus property," Pate said. "The first offer is to the highest level of government below the state. In this case the county. It would be nice if it handed it over to the county for $1."

It is possible some negotiations will be needed, but Pate said he hopes the process will have reached a point by the start of the May short legislative session that a local bill will not be needed to convey the property.

However, if needed, one would be introduced, he said.

"I don't think there will be any major problems," Pate said. "I know that all of us in the local delegation have spoken about it."

If the county is able to use the old prison, the current jail would continue to house some inmates along with booking, kitchen, the magistrate's office and DWI breathalyzer room.

The Sheriff's Office and the sheriff's administrative assistant would remain there as well.

Also remaining would be the jail administrator and four other supervisors, the major in charge of the patrol unit, the drug squad, and investigations, major support services, and the captain of the civil division, which includes the current staff.

Other goals of the study are to determine the county's jail needs over the next 25 years and whether to close the Sheriff's Annex and move its personnel and offices to the prison site.

The study is estimated to cost between $70,000 and $100,0000.

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

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

Commissioners have been looking at options other than having to build a new jail, which is projected to cost $60-$70 million.

Renovating the 428-bed prison will cost considerably less than building a new jail, Detention Center Advisory Board members said. The county's capital improvement plan includes a projected $4 million for the project in fiscal year 2015-16.

Along with solving the problem of overcrowding, the larger facility could create revenue by allowing the county to house inmates from other counties, as well as state and federal inmates, county officials have said.