Commissioners to consider concepts for new jail

Sharna Johnson

The Curry County Commission will consider concepts for a new jail under a lease plan presented during a special meeting Tuesday.

Since November — when voters defeated two $16.5 million bonds aimed at building the first phase of an estimated $90 million jail and courthouse — the county has been exploring options to resolve overcrowding and security issues in the two facilities.

According to presenter Ed Eastridge, the county could partner with non-profit Community Facility Partners to build a new facility through sale of existing county tax revenue bonds. The bonds would be sold on the market without need of voter approval, he said.

Once built, the county would enter into a lease-to-own arrangement for 20 to 25 years.

Eastridge serves as executive director of the Public Private Development Collaborative, partnering Dougherty & Company LLC, Gerald Martin and Johnson McKibben Architects Inc.

All planning, design, financing and construction would be handled through PPDC with close partnership with the county, he said.

“We believe based on your historical costs (for housing inmates out of county), you can probably build what you need,” he said. “Because you’re already spending this money, it’s good money after bad.”

He said costs range from $650,000 to $1 million a year to house inmates out of county.

Eastridge said 11 facilities have been built in New Mexico using the concept, such as the Quay, Otero, McKinley and Colfax county detention centers among others.

Eastridge said if the county were interested in pursuing the idea, his group would respond to a request for qualifications and begin planning the project.

The presentation did not include any specific plans or price models for Curry County.

Chairman Caleb Chandler thanked PPDC for the presentation and said the commission would take it under advisement.

“There’s a lot of things that make it attractive,” he said.

In other business, commissioners:

• Heard from Clovis builder David Petty, who said he has studied possibilities for renovation of the county’s Gidding Street property since June at the request of County Manager Lance Pyle.

Petty showed commissioners a series of floor plan concepts he has done of the building, focusing on renovating and reconfiguring the first floor.

The second floor is occupied by the district attorney’s office.

If county offices are moved to another location it would address space issues in the courthouse and could simplify security for the building.

Under his model, Petty said the building could accommodate all county offices including the clerk, treasurer, assessor and administration, in addition to storage of voting machines and a room for the commission with a 50-seat capacity.

Petty said each office would gain space in the move from the courthouse, and the building also allows for southern expansion when needed.

He said the building is well constructed and if handled correctly, will serve the county well for years.

He said he would not have a cost analysis to present until architectural drawings are done.

“Mr. Petty’s done a lot of work here that could save the county a lot of money,” Chandler said.

Chandler recommended to Pyle that Petty be brought in as a consultant on plans to renovate the building.

• Extended a county burn ban 10 days so they can re-evaluate the restrictions it imposes. Commissioner Frank Blackburn said county residents with burn pits need to be granted the ability to burn their trash and debris. He said county residents are responsible and are not the cause of wildland fires.

County Attorney Steve Doerr said he will review the ordinance to determine if and how the commission could expand it to allow pit burning.

• Heard a report from detention center Administrator Keith Norwood on the jail.

Norwood said in July there were 222 inmates at the jail and 232 in August.

In response to a question from Chandler regarding classification of inmates sent out of county, Norwood said all inmates sent elsewhere are considered maximum security.

“We just don’t have the hardware,” he said. “We’re not designed to handle those (inmates).”

Norwood also recognized employees of the month, detention officers Josh Radcliff of the juvenile detention center and Tiffany Wagner of the adult detention center.

• Heard a report from events center Manager Kevin Jolley, who said in June, the center revenue was about $2,500 above what was estimated.

Jolley said the facility has booked more than 80 events this year, above an estimate of around 60.

Jolley also said 94 vendors have been booked for the fair, which takes place Aug. 15-20.

• Heard a report from Finance Manager Mark Lansford on the state of the county’s finances.

Lansford said the county’s condition is strong with the fiscal year closing in June with a revenues increase — partly due to a 3 percent increase in Gross Receipts Tax revenue — and several areas coming in under budget.

Lansford said the general fund closed out more than $400,000 over estimated and a surplus of more than $956,000 in cash reserves.