Planning begins for jail expansion project

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Plans to expand the Barry County Jail are taking shape with the Barry County Commission seeking bids for a project architect.

For the past two years, the Commission has set aside capital projects funds to finance a future jail expansion project. In 2004 and 2005, the county set aside $175,000 for the project. To date, $350,000 has been earmarked for jail expansion.

Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren said the county intends to put aside another $175,000 for the project in the 2006 budget.

"Right now we want to get an architect hired and get the planning completed," Warren said.

Barry County's need for a larger jail is easy to prove, according to Sheriff Mick Epperly. The current facility, which was expanded in 1996, was built to house 32 prisoners.

Epperly said the jail's daily average so far in 2005 has been 44 prisoners.

"We're definitely running over and need more space," Epperly said. "We've been planning this for awhile and saving money. It's something we need."

The jail was designed with expansion in mind. The sheriff said the proposed project would double the jail's current capacity, adding 32 more beds.

"We won't have any trouble filling those beds either," Epperly said. "I think if we build a 100, we'd fill them. But this expansion will be a great help.

"Overcrowding causes great problems for our staff," Epperly said. "A lot of these days, we can't get them to court on time. I look forward to being able to put more in here under safer conditions."

A larger jail will also require additional staff and more supplies, according to Epperly.

"These are things that will have to be considered," Epperly said.

According to a bid notice published in the newspaper, the commission will be accepting cost estimates for architectural services through Friday, Oct. 14.

Warren said the Commission would like to bid out the project in March or April of next year.

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