The $9.3 million jail Curry County commissioners are asking voters to approve April 3 only covers the cost of a building and equipping a new 60-bed expansion of the existing jail.
It won't cover other expenses such as land acquisition, additional staff and renovating the existing jail, according to commission Chairman Wendell Bostwick.
The estimated $1.5 to $2 million needed to complete the plan will have to come from cost savings and the county's $7 million cash reserve fund, Bostwick said Friday.
"We should have close to $5 million left in reserve after we get through with what we've got on the table now," Bostwick said. Bostwick said he is reluctant to estimate additional costs involved in the jail plan because there are just too many variables. For example, he said, some of the renovation costs at the existing jail can be offset by using county employee labor skills.
Bostwick and Commissioner Caleb Chandler say they are confident the expansion being called the Special Housing Unit (SHU) can be finished for $9.3 million. Both say the county's architects have assured them the final price of the SHU will be within 1 percent of the bond amount.
As for the renovation of the existing jail, "We haven't gone out for bids and we can't start doing that until we get the SHU built," Bostwick said.
Chandler's endorsement of the latest plan for the county's troubled jail is an about-face by the retiring commissioner. He refused to support $33 million in bond issues that 70 percent of voters rejected in November 2010. Those bond issues would have meant a property tax increase to build a new jail and courthouse.
Chandler said he opposed the 2010 bond issue because he didn't believe the county had enough information from people he considered experts on detention issues. Chandler also said while he considered courthouse security important, fixing problems at the jail "was much more important."
The problems cited by commissioners then and now are overcrowding and an antiquated and poorly designed structure.
The SHU would allow jail personnel to segregate inmates based on their issues, a luxury not available now.
Commissioner Bobby Sandoval said being unable to segregate inmates with mental health issues from violent inmates presents both a security and liability issue.
The SHU will also include a larger kitchen and laundry. Jail Administrator Gerry Billy has noted the existing laundry has just one washing machine to serve an average daily inmate population that hovers around 200.
Commissioners and Billy stress the $9.3 million bond issue will not mean any tax increase. Should voters approve the measure, it will mean extending an existing tax by another 20 years.
Bostwick points out the tax commissioners are asking voters to extend was approved more than 20 years ago to build the existing jail, then was extended in 2001 to finance the Events Center.
The tax is now scheduled to end in 2014.
The SHU would be built immediately north and adjacent to the existing jail. The land is owned by ZIP Printing. County Manager Lance Pyle said he has signed an option to purchase ZIP contingent on the bond issue being approved by voters.
Pyle said the amount of the ZIP land purchase is between $200,000 and $250,000.
The county has already purchased nearby Master Trim in a $345,000 deal that while not directly related to the jail project, will mean added security for the facility, according to Bostwick.
Bostwick said the design of the SHU also incorporates other savings. By expanding north, the design enables a guard control unit to be built in such a way the person manning the control center will be able to observe activities in both the SHU and the existing jail.
Bostwick noted that design feature eliminates the need to install a costly second control unit.
"It would have cost us $200,000 just to staff a second command post each year had we gone east with expansion," Bostwick said.
Additionally, architects plan to use existing electronic surveillance equipment at the jail.
Billy has noted the expansion will also mean the end of sending inmates out of the county or to facilities out of the state. The county paid about $770,000 last year to house inmates outside Curry County. Bostwick said he believes that annual savings will be more than enough to cover any additional staff needed after the expansion.
By the numbers:
• 60-bed expansion — $9.3 million
• Additional staff (estimated) — 6 to 11
• Renovating existing jail (estimated) — $750,000 to $1.5 million
• Purchasing ZIP Printing — $200,000 to $245,000
• Purchase of Master Trim — $345,000
• Cash in county reserve fund — $6.9 million (as of Friday)