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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Construction of Morgan County Jail addition near completion By Keith Clines Staff Writer Updated 22 hrs ago
Work on the long-awaited and often-delayed Morgan County Jail addition is in the final stages, with completion now expected by January.
Installation of cables and wiring for computers and other electronics should be finished in two weeks, Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said during a walk-through of the addition last week.
Installing landscaping and concrete curbing, and paving around the three-story, $11 million addition remain to be done, Long said.
“We want to make sure everything’s finished before we open it,” Long said.
Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin said opening the 450-bed jail addition by the end of December is “a possibility.” The county still has to seek bids for some services, including installing telephone and video visitation services for inmates.
Long said inmates in the new addition can use the telephone and video visitation equipment used by inmates in the main jail to keep from delaying the opening.
“Decatur is waiting,” Long said. “They’re ready to move on.”
Decatur will close its jail when the county addition is complete. Decatur agreed in 2013 to pay the county $2 million for construction of the addition and $100,000 a month for 20 years to house up to 120 city inmates.
Decatur police Chief Nate Allen said opening of the county jail addition in the next month “sounds good to me.” He likes that the city is getting out of the jail business.
“It seems redundant to me to have two jails standing side by side,” Allen said. “The manpower expense and the expense for clothing and feeding inmates seem like a duplication of services.”
The county began taking the city’s female inmates about a month ago, Allen said. He said the transfer involved nine female inmates.
The city jail averages between 18 and 24 male inmates a day, he said.
The Police Department has made some changes in the past few months to prepare for closing the city jail.
Allen said he has hired temporary employees for jail security. Those employees are not city employees, and their jobs will end when the jail closes.
The city has a contract to provide a nurse for inmates and another contract for food services. Both of those contracts will be terminated when the jail closes, Allen said.
Allen said four or five city employees with duties associated with the jail will remain with the city. They will transport inmates between the county jail and city court.
Allen said an architect has looked at the city jail to help city officials decide what to do with the space when it becomes available.
The Morgan County Jail houses inmates for all of the other towns in Morgan County. The inmates from those towns and from Decatur are all misdemeanor offenders.
Franklin plans to place minimum security inmates in the new jail addition. Those inmates could include those with misdemeanor charges from the various towns, county work release inmates and trusty inmates.
Franklin said she will use only the first floor of the addition, and open the second and third floors as needed. She said the 500-inmate main jail is almost at capacity.
The cost for utilities can be reduced with the second and third floors not in use, she said.
The jail addition will house inmates in a dormitory-style setting with two large rooms with a guard control center between the rooms. Each room will have steel bunk beds on each end and metal dining tables in the middle.
Franklin said she won’t know if there will be any problems in the addition until it opens.
“I expect some tweaks, but I feel good about the overall plan,” she said.
Originally, construction on the addition was to cost about $7.4 million, and construction was to start in October 2013 and take about a year to complete.
But construction was delayed, primarily because of a change in the scope and design to increase the addition’s inmate capacity from 320 inmates to 450 inmates, and higher-than-expected construction bids.
Construction began in June 2015 and was expected to be completed in August. The planned completion date was announced as October and then November as weather and other issues caused delays.
The project’s total cost is about $11 million, which includes $9.59 million for construction, plus engineering, architect and other costs.