Jail upgrade considered againPublished 2:13pm Friday, January 11, 2013
ST. JOSEPH — Berrien County Board of Commissioners’ Administration Committee voted 3-0 Thursday morning to recommend hiring an architect to upgrade the jail’s receiving area.
“We need to hire an architect to do a design to give us the real cost so we know where we’re going,” Sheriff Paul Bailey said, noting some $1.3 million set aside in a line item. Architectural services are projected to cost $30,000.
The sheriff added, “We’re going into a basement built in 1951. We’re not going to build a new jail for 20 years down the road. It’s old and not in a pod system, but linear, so it takes more employees, but the jail is in good shape because of the money prior commissioners put into it. It takes more maintenance than an upscale jail like people are moving to, but the money’s not there right now.”
Shortcomings of the too-small receiving area include the absence of padded cells and triage, which “weren’t thought of in those days,” Bailey said. “We didn’t have meth and heroin in those days. We have so many more inmates with physical problems.”
Bailey said four studies have been undertaken, most recently in 2009 when the project was estimated to cost more than $3.5 million.
“We’ve been having this conversation ever since I’ve been on here,” Vice Chair Marletta Seats said, joined by Commissioners Jim Curran and Cathy Thieneman.
“We need a dollar amount to make a decision,” Seats said. “Based on the tour, it’s a need — not a want” which could pose a liability for the county.
Commissioners spent the afternoon reviewing law enforcement facilities by bus.
Technology was installed in 2008 at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) known as “2100” for its address on East Empire in Benton Harbor.
The current analog system has reached its limit on input devices.
Current EOC technology lacks the ability to expand to meet increasing demands to manage Berrien County emergencies.
The EOC technology system needs to be digital to have the ability to expand with changing technology and requirements.
Jan. 17 the Board of Commissioners will be considering authorizing Chairman Jon Hinkelman to sign agreements to purchase necessary software, hardware and consulting services to implement a digital audio/video technology system for the EOC from AVI Systems at a cost not to exceed $65,604.
“We cannot do something as simple as displaying video feed from the field because it’s analog,” Chief Deputy Mike Bradley told the Administration Committee.
Hostile action exercises begin in May.
AVI Systems does audio-video recording for the county’s 13 courtrooms.