Design contract approved for $4.9 million Berrien County Jail remodel project

Published 9:24 am Friday, May 13, 2016

BERRIEN COUNTY — A $4.9 million remodeling project of the Berrien County Jail’s intake and release area is moving forward.

On Thursday, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners approved a contract with Byce & Associates, of Kalamazoo, to perform architectural and design work for the project.

Berrien County Administrator Bill Wolf said the company received a list of needs and wants for the project and would figure out what can be done within the projected budget.

The project won’t cost taxpayers any additional money as Wolf said funding is coming out of the county’s capital project fund.

“We won’t be able to afford everything, but through the sheriff we will get down to the things we really need and the size of things and what really has to be accomplished,” Wolf said.

The project is based on a jail needs and feasibility study completed in 2009 by Wold Architects and Engineers. The study found several challenges with the current jail facility’s booking area, including that it is inadequately sized, has overcrowded booking cells, has no separation between booking and release areas and lacks a padded safety cell.

Wolf said the study looked at several options for the jail, including expanding the current jail, building a new jail and remodeling portions of the jail.

Wolf said the board at that time determined to go with remodeling in order to extend the life of the jail another 20 years until the time comes when the county can build a new jail and courthouse next to one another at a different location at the same time.

“It is important that they be tied,” Wolf said. “We are trying to buy 20 years and tie them together so that the two can move together.”

Wolf said some empty space would be utilized in the remodeling project.

Sheriff Paul Bailey said the project would address several issues facing the jail, including that there are not enough holding cells to deal with the number of people coming in on a daily basis.

Bailey said the top three priorities for the project include adding more holding cells for males and females, creating padded rooms for inmates who are at risk of harming themselves and adding a medical triage area in the receiving area.

Bailey said medical is currently housed on a separate floor.

“I am just happy it is moving forward after all these years,” he said.

Wolf said the project had been tabled several years because the county had other capital projects to complete, including consolidating the health department buildings and creating a new animal control shelter.

Wolf said he hopes construction will begin before the end of the year.

Byce & Associates will receive a fee of 4.3 percent of the cost of work for the programming and design phase and 1.3 percent of the cost of work for construction administration.

Bailey said this project would not address the jail’s problem with overcrowding. He said the jail is at or above capacity (341 inmates) most of the time.