2011-01-06 / Front Page

New Sheriff ’s Office In The Works

Proposed construction estimated at $500,000
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

The county took its first steps this week toward the construction of a new sheriff’s office after learning that the cost to resolve structural and mechanical issues with the old jail that now houses the sheriff and his staff was prohibitive.

According to the commissioners, repairs to the mid-19th century building that were thought minor at the outset of the renovation project have turned into major concerns that include structurally unsound rafters, inability to connect the new geothermal heating system without jeopardizing the building structurally, mold and an electrical system that needs replacement. The old jail will now be razed sometime this year and a new sheriff’s office built in its place.

Commissioner Bonnie Mellott Keefer said that she and fellow commissioners David R. Hoover and Craig Cutchall “did not want to throw good money after bad.” “Do we let this (the old jail) be a money pit or do we build a nice building?”

The commissioners have already penned a contract for temporary office space for the sheriff’s department and are ready to relocate staff within the next week.

In sitting down with Brian Haines of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, the commissioners tossed around possible figures for the project as well as programming needs and square footage. Commissioner Keefer briefly outlined the county’s needs for two-story office space, which would be located in the same general location as the existing office but include a threevehicle garage. Among the features discussed by Haines and the commissioners for the brick facility, which will be architecturally compatible with the courthouse, were a weapons armory, holding cell, a custodial closet and restrooms for the public and staff.

Additional amenities that could potentially increase the cost of office space are an elevator or kitchen, noted Haines, who ballparked the proposed project at $500,000. That figure, however, was solely construction related and does not cover architectural and engineering fees or soft costs.

“I need to know how complex you’d like this to be,” said Haines.

He further maintained it seemed pointless to construct a garage to the rear of the building and not have office space over the addition. The commissioners responded the employees previously housed on the second floor of the sheriff’s office (jury commissioners, Veterans Affairs and county auditors) have been relocated to other facilities. As a result, the commissioners suggested that aside from maybe having a support wall in place that the upstairs be divided with removable partitions to accommodate whatever staffing needs they may have.

In addition to discussing the need for a contract with Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, the commissioners agreed to discuss the matter with Sheriff Keith Stains to get a better handle on office functionality and layout.

Furthermore, the commissioners will also be meeting with contractors associated with the ongoing renovation project, which has seen some work already completed at the current sheriff’s office. Work already done or partially finished includes a front porch, duct work and roofing. Credit will likely be given to the county for work not yet completed, and pertinent contracts will be terminated.

The commissioners said the possibility exists certain items like duct work could be salvaged and used in the newly constructed sheriff’s office. If the duct work is not suitable, it could be sold at county auction.

In order to proceed with their plans, the county will be required to jump through certain hoops such as a design contract; approved funding separate from the renovation project; meetings with the county planning commission; and applications and civil engineering as it pertains to historical integrity.

Commissioner David Hoover II remained hopeful the project could be completed in its entirety by this time in 2012. “We’re on board. We’re rolling,” exclaimed Hoover, giving a thumbs up.

In other matters, the commissioners approved several personal appointments for 2011 including solicitor Stanley Kerlin, chief clerk Daniel Swain, Tax Claim Bureau director Monica Seville, chief assessor Michelle Sowers, Director of Veterans’ Affairs Ed Stenger and Public Defender Tamela Bard.

The commissioners also conducted a nearly hour-long executive session behind closed doors to discuss legal matters.

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