A construction company has been chosen to expand and upgrade the Brown County Jail.
WAI Construction Group from Piketon, OH was chosen by the Brown County Commissioners on Monday, August 14 \after submitting a bid of $2,994,500 for the project. A competing bid from Miller-Valentine Construction for $3,712,362 was also received.
WAI Vice President of Business Development Scott Moore said that construction on a 40 man dormitory style addition to the jail will begin in late October or early November.
The forty person addition will be all male and for lower level and non violent offenders. This will open up additional cells in other areas of the jail to house more violent offenders.
The next step would be an addition to the sallyport area on the south side of the building. This addition would add an additional six cells when complete, including two padded isolation cells for inmates who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
The area would also offer additional storage and other administrative areas designed to take care of a jail that is nearly doubling in capacity.
The third phase of the addition will be new offices constructed on both sides of the current main entrance to the jail. Once complete, the current offices would be converted to further storage, administrative and maintenance functions for the jail.
“We looked at everything presented to us by the two companies. WAI has built jails before and they were the lowest bidder. They were the logical choice for the project,” said Commissioner Tony Applegate.
The expansion of the jail has been a topic of conversation in the county for nearly two years, since the jail had to be completely shut down in October of 2015 to repair locks on the jail doors.
“It’s a long process and it takes even longer when you are dealing with public money and government projects. Getting to this point took a lot longer than it would have in the private sector and that’s hard for some people to understand,” Applegate said.
Commissioner Barry Woodruff said that he was frustrated that the county is having to spend millions of dollars on the jail.
“We are committing this county to a little bit over three million dollars to house inmates that choose not to behave in society. What else could we do with that money that would better serve our constituents in the county?”
He continued, “It’s gotten us to a point where we have to do something. Those folks are going to continue to break the law.”
Commission President Daryll Gray said that there was no alternative but to expand the jail. The county has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past two years to house inmates in Butler and Clermont counties.
“It’s a step forward that will hopefully eliminate some of our problem. The cost factor is still going to be there whether we pay on a bond or to house prisoners out of the county, we are still using taxpayer money.”
Applegate echoed that concern, saying the county would soon be paying for both solutions at once to the overcrowded jail problem.
“We will be challenged during the construction process, because once the bonds are funded, we will be making bond payments on top of funding expenses for housing inmates in Clermont County. It’s going to be a struggle,” he said.
If construction begins in October or November of this year, it will take approximately a year for the dormitory section of the jail to open.
The next step in the process is for the county to consult with bond counsel to choose a lending institution and how long the repayment schedule will last.
Typical terms are ten, fifteen or twenty years, with lower payments coming with longer terms.
Applegate said that the county was expecting a payment in the neighborhood of $25,000 per month.
The Brown County Criminal Justice Task Force voted to recommend the jail expansion plan to the commissioners on April 11 after discussing the issue for 14 months.
The commissioners determined at that time that they did not want to spend more than three million dollars on the plan.
The new dormitory area would require one additional corrections officer per shift to supervise it.
With four corrections officer shifts in place for 24 hour coverage, that means that four additional corrections officers would have to be hired. That would increase annual labor costs at the jail by about $180,000 per year.
That cost, coupled with an estimated monthly loan payment of $25,000 would make the additional annual expense of running the jail approximately $480,000 per year.