Members of a committee charged with deciding whether or not the county will move forward with an expansion to the Knox County Jail continue to inch along toward a proposal.
Members met for only the second time on Tuesday at the jail itself, located at 2375 S. Old Decker Road. Sheriff Doug Vantlin gave them all a tour, and after they heard both from architects with RQAW and representatives with Terre Haute-based construction company Garmong, the same company that oversaw the Vincennes Community School Corp.’s 4-year, $40 million neighborhood elementary school project.
While several options are still being weighed, the committee is considering going a similar route, one wherein the county hires a construction manager — a company like Garmong or one similar — to oversee the entire construction project, including the contract letting and hiring of contractors.
Traditionally, cities and counties, when they embark upon a major project, hire an architect to design it then let construction out for bid, awarding the contract to the lowest bidder. But there are other options for a project of this scope and size, and many government entities, representatives from Garmong explained, find benefit in hiring a construction manager at the very beginning to help guide them through the process.
It can also result in cost savings, as going this route eliminates the possibility of multiple change orders as the project goes along, and bid packages, too, can be tailored to attract local business.
Garmong has a lot of history in building jails; they have multiple existing contracts across Indiana, representatives explained.
They just entered into a deal with Vermillion County on a jail construction project there, the company’s 12th so far.
There are many other jail projects happening all over the state, representatives with Garmong explained, and about 75% of them have gone the construction manager route.
But before this decision can be made, several others must come first, pointed out county commissioner and committee member T.J. Brink.
“We have to figure out where we can go — or if we can go,” he told the committee.
To do that, the committee looked to members of the Knox County Council, who just recently hired Bondry Management Consultants in Carmel to help figure out exactly how much money they can spend on such a jail project.
Oscar Gutierrez, founder and principal of Bondry Management Consultants in Carmel, attended the committee meeting and said that while he doesn’t have hard numbers just yet, he should by the time the committee meets again next month.
More than a year ago, the county council reinstated the jail tax — the one used to build the existing jail years ago — to generate the funds necessary for an expansion, so it’s clear the kind of revenue that will provide.
But there are other financial resources to explore, Gutierrez explained, ones that would allow the county to move forward with a larger project.
Architects with RQAW have provided three different options to the county at this point, ones that include varying degrees of expansion at the jail itself as well as a new building constructed adjacent to it that would house the county’s community corrections program.
Which one they move forward with, however, will depend completely on how much the county can afford to spend.
They’re hopeful to bring all of this together — and finally have some concrete answers — when the committee meets again on May 4.
Jon Manning, the county’s appointed lay-person to the board and a former employee with Good Samaritan who oversaw its $110 million BEACON project three years ago, suggested that, in the meantime, too, county officials begin prioritizing their own needs.
Which is more important, he ventured — an expansion to the jail itself or a new home for community corrections? An answer would help both the architects and those looking for the money to pay for it.
“The pot of money is limited, so what is the county’s most pressing need?” he asked, to which the group nodded thoughtfully.
The committee was originally formed weeks ago to discuss the need for more space at both the jail as well as community corrections, located in a historic downtown building on North Eighth Street just across from the courthouse.
Both are at or over capacity, and the community corrections building is in dire need of repair.
The commissioners last year hired RQAW to take a look at the future needs of the jail, an in presenting those findings last summer, RQAW initially recommended a $32 million expansion, specifically the construction of an additional pod — more than doubling the jail’s current bed capacity — as well as a new, adjacent structure to house community corrections. Other, lesser options, too, have been presented in the months since.