Jail expansion moving forward

Two construction firms have submitted proposals to the Brown County Commissioners to build the expansion of the Brown County Jail.
Miller-Valentine of Cincinnati and WAI Construction Group of Piketon, Ohio have both submitted information for the Request for Qualifications phase of the project.
This part of the project is where construction companies list their qualifications to accomplish the project as set forth by the commissioners.
The qualifications will be assessed by the bonding company and the architectural firm the commissioners are working with.  That process is expected to take about three weeks.
The bonding firm for the county is Bricker and Eckler out of Columbus.  The criterion architect is Darin Schweickart of Maysville, KY.
If one or both of the firms are found to be qualified, they will be invited to submit bids on the project.
The total budget for the project has been set by the commissioners at approximately three million dollars, based on architectural estimates.
Plans call for the construction of a 40 bed dormitory style addition, a new sally port and additional storage and office space.
The commissioners will review the submitted bids and secure financing from bonds once an actual construction figure for the project is known.
That phase is expected to take approximately one month, meaning that a construction firm could be chosen by the end of August.
“We hope to be turning dirt sometime this year,” said Brown County Commissioner Tony Applegate.
“This process just takes longer than it would in the private sector because of all the steps that are required by law.”
Applegate said that he and the other commissioners are glad to see the construction process moving forward.
“We are finally seeing movement on resolving an issue that has been going on well before our time in office,” he said.
Applegate said that he and the other commissioners appreciate the cooperation of elected officials in the county criminal justice system in keeping inmate housing costs down at the jail.
“Our jail count has not increased this year like it has in the past.  We can see that there is a conscientious effort by everyone to put people in jail that need to be there, but to keep things moving so they are there for as short a time as possible,” Applegate said.
Brown County Commission President Daryll Gray also praised the level of cooperation.
“We really appreciate everyone involved in the county criminal justice system working together to help us keep costs down,” Gray said.
The fund to house prisoners in Clermont County had $108,400 as of July 6.
In May, the county paid Butler County $14,640 and $37,328 to Clermont County.  Inmates are no longer kept in Butler County, and the June bill for Clermont County has not been received.
Brown County pays Clermont County to house up to 20 male prisoners at 60.11 per day.  If 20 prisoners are housed for an entire 31 day month in July and August, that will cost Brown County $37,328.20 per month.  At that rate, the July and August bills could be paid, with funds running out some time in September.
The commissioners have stated that they do not plan to add more money to the fund for prisoner housing, meaning some difficult decisions in the county are on the horizon for September.
“When the money runs out, it’s gone,” said Gray.
The capacity of the Brown County Jail is 44 men and 24 women.  20 men can also be kept in Clermont County, for a total capacity of 64 men and 24 women.
The jail count can vary from hour to hour, but stays near 80 or above most of the time.  With that being the case, if the extra 20 cells in Clermont County are not funded, there will be 15-20 men out of the Brown County Jail that would normally be there except for the funding issue.
Brown County Sheriff Gordon Ellis said that his office is working to keep the daily inmate population as low as possible.
“Each day we work with the local judges and the state penal institutions and other county jails.  The intent is to make sure that we are moving prisoners who can be moved out our jail as rapidly as we can,” Ellis said.
“Every day we are moving prisoners from one place to another to move them out of the system as rapidly as possible.”
He praised local police departments and the county criminal justice system employees for all working together to be as efficient as possible.
“The judges are aware of the challenges we currently have in our jail structure and are moving their dockets as rapidly as they can,” Ellis said.
“Everyone is aware of the challenges as we move through the construction process.  The key spoke in that wheel is Lieutenant Larry Meyer in maintaining track of how many inmates we have.  All of the corrections staff have become very good at identifying when an inmate can be moved out of the jail.”
Ellis said that the jail staff would continue to operate to keep the inmate population down while the jail construction project is underway.