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Plans to be drawn up for jail addition

| Wednesday, June 12, 2002

After two years of haggling, the Fayette County Commissioners appear to have settled on a $6 million, hard-walled addition to its 19th century prison.

Deputy Warden John Walton said the latest permutation of the addition is a three-floor, 94-bed facility.

Two versions of the plans will be drawn up, according to Walton. Plans will include all cells and half dorm-style bunks, he said.

In addition, five cells will have single bunks, with the option of adding second bunks later if overcrowding becomes a concern.

"It will give us some flexibility in classification," he said.

A dorm-style building would be cheaper to build. But with the recent construction of an 80-bed steel outbuilding for minimum security offenders, the prison has an adequate supply of beds for that type of prisoner.

County architect Michael Molnar was told last week to prepare the plans so that bids could be sought within three to four months.

In 2000, the commissioners anticipated spending only $1.7 million for a 30-bed addition.

But the jail population swelled until the county had farmed out more than 50 inmates to other county jails last year.

While the population has since moderated, the commissioners went ahead with construction of the 80-bed building and debated the necessary size of the hard-walled addition.

With the proposed addition, the county will have a 356-bed capacity. The existing facility has 182 beds.

The 1888 prison was built to house 66 inmates and was cited last year by the state for overcrowding and maintenance issues.

The steel building, which has not yet opened, appears to be running as much as 100 percent over the original estimate of a $500,000 cost. The project also has missed three projected opening dates and is awaiting new locks and additional fencing before it can open.

The county also has planned to construct additional space by 2020 that would increase bed space to 750 or more. But construction of that phase is thought to be more than 10 years off.

Commissioner Vincent Vicites said the hard-walled addition should take two years to build after the construction contracts are approved.

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