Jail work continues, manufacturer may have been found
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
About three dozen Morgan residents gathered at the former Denon facility on Highway 83 in Madison last Monday to check out the site of the new county jail, completion of which is expected in late 2009.
Sheriff Robert Markley said that the facility was a good buy for the county; the county paid $4.5 million for the 186,000-square-foot facility late last year, along with 75 acres.
“That’s about $21 per square foot for the building,” said Markley. Even added to the expected renovation costs of an estimated $150-$170 per square foot,, the county still should come out far ahead of the $250 per square foot that it would cost to build a jail from the ground up. A total savings of as much as $2 million could be realized by building inside the Denon shell.
Additionally, Commissioner Ellen Warren announced at Monday’s town hall meeting at the jail site that the county is in negotiations with a manufacturer interested in renting out the portion of the facility currently occupied by the Morgan County Recreation Department, which will be permanently removed from the facility once construction begins. “I know there has been concern about taking this parcel off the tax rolls,” said Warren. “If we’re able to rent this out for a few years, that could more than offset those tax losses.” County officials did not name the facility interested in renting the rear portion of the former Denon building, but they did say that a lease-purchase agreement involving lease of the warehouse-style space and purchase of part of the sites 75 acres could be on the table with the unnamed company. The new county jail facility will include 192 beds, patrol and squad rooms, administrative and sheriff’s offices, officers for public defenders and parole officers, and courtrooms capable of holding a jury trial if necessary. There will also be office and meeting space for the local Emergency Management Association, and potentially living quarters for emergency service providers and a future Madison fire station. The steel cells of the jail will be manufactured elsewhere and brought to Madison to be plugged into place during the renovation of the building. The county expects to save about eight months of construction time, said Markley, by renovating the free-standing building; as well, further storage savings are expected to be realized since so much warehouse space is available in the facility that the county will be able to store construction materials on-site. Rain delays will not affect construction, either, pointed out officials.
When complete, the jail’s pod-style development of the inmate living and recreation quarters could be supervised by as few as five law enforcement officials; the current jail employs three people for inmate supervision per shift. A total of eight new jail staff members could be hired when the new detention center is opened. “I think it’s going to be an amazing facility,” said Warren.