New Adams County jail could cost $6.8 million; supervisors want to hear plan on renovations

Published 12:12am Tuesday, June 17, 2014

NATCHEZ — A Jackson architectural group estimates constructing a new jail in Adams County would cost $6.8 million, but county supervisors want to consider the costs of renovating the current facility before writing a check.

Representatives from Benchmark Construction Company gave a formal presentation to the Adams County Board of Supervisors Monday detailing construction plans for a $6.8 million, 30,000-square foot facility that could house 185 inmates.

A feasibility study was commissioned by the supervisors and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year, and gave four scenarios for the future of the jail, recommending it ultimately be replaced.

Circuit court judges Forrest “Al” Johnson and Lillie Blackmon Sanders issued a court order last week requiring the county board and sheriff’s office form a partnership to look into the cost of upgrading the current county lockup on State Street or replacing the facility.

Board attorney Scott Slover said the presentation Monday was intended mainly to satisfy the requirements of the court order.

David Marsh, founder of Benchmark, led the presentation, which detailed the various parts of the jail and gave an interactive walk-through of the facility.

The Benchmark group completes feasibility studies and tailors financing plans for prison systems. Previous projects Benchmark has worked on in Mississippi include the Simpson County Justice Complex and the Tate County Jail.

Marsh described the jail design as a standard facility with an open dormitory complex, central guard station and recreation area.

Several details of the jail, Marsh said, could change later in the process depending on what exactly the needs of the sheriff’s office are at that point and in the future.

“These are all the things we would review with the sheriff’s department, because it’s not designed for a snapshot of today but what are going to be the needs down the road,” Marsh said. “We would get all that very fine tuned.”

The preliminary estimate of $6.8 million includes the architectural, engineering and construction costs, as well as other amenities including security systems, cameras, beds and laundry equipment.

The company did not provide an estimate for site or dirt work, Marsh said, because of the uncertainty of where the facility would be located.

The plan only detailed the jail facility and did not include any of the administrative offices for the sheriff’s office, which Supervisor David Carter questioned.

“We have to include all that,” Carter said. “Realistically, if we build a new jail and we don’t keep (administrative offices) there, those are some more costs we do have to keep in mind.

“If we’re going to do all this, we might as well address it all at once.”

Slover said he had asked the Benchmark officials only to include the jail facility in their report and presentation, which would satisfy the requirements of the court order.

“We requested they focus in on the jail, so we could have apples to apples,” Slover said. “We can look at the other design, but at this point we wanted to look at just the jail design.”

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said the board also needed to keep in mind the cost of tearing down the current State Street jail if a new one were to be constructed.

“You can’t just let that building sit there and let vines start growing over it,” Lazarus said. “We need to look at all those costs.”

In December, Johnny Waycaster of Waycaster and Associates Architects in Natchez sent a report on the current jail at the county’s request.

In Waycaster’s assessment, the architect reported his observations on the jail’s conditions after a walk-through with jail administrator Ed Tucker. The walk-through was completed at the request of the supervisors after initial discussions about replacing the jail began last year.

The Waycaster report suggests the county repair the jail as the building is “too good to consider abandoning.” The report states repairs could cost between $1 million to $4 million.

Board President Darryl Grennell requested someone from Waycaster’s office come to the board’s July meeting and make a presentation on the report and the suggestion of repairing the jail instead of building a new facility.

A 31-page feasibility study completed by Benchmark highlights several structural and safety concerns with the building and states building a new structure “is the most reasonable solution.”

Renovation is not possible because of the current facility design and the costs it would incur, Benchmark concluded.

The Benchmark study was completed free to the county, though the agreement with the county specifies that Benchmark will be paid for the study if the county decides to move forward with a new jail.