Sarpy County took another major step forward today in its plans to build a modern correctional center on the Sarpy County Campus.
The Sarpy County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a schematic design for the new correctional facility on the northeast corner of 84th Street and Highway 370. The schematic design is the first substantive step in the design process, which sets the scope and general appearance of the project. The team will now move on to the design development phase, followed by the creation of construction documents.
“After months of collaboration, expert involvement and a lot of hard work, we have a design that meets our immediate needs as well as our needs in the future,” said Sarpy County Board Chairman Don Kelly. “Sarpy County is growing faster than any other county in the state, so we need a correctional facility that addresses our current overcrowding issues but also has room to expand in the future. This design does that.”
Created by DLR Group with input from almost 100 Sarpy County stakeholders and subject matter experts, the schematic design sets the footprint and general layout for the new 146,000-square-foot facility. The design includes space for 368 inmates, a dedicated behavioral health unit, a secure courtroom and video arraignment areas, as well as space for educational and rehabilitative programs.
The design also includes a planned secure connection that will join the new correctional center to the Sarpy County Courthouse.
“A lot of thought went into the design of this facility, both inside and out, from the exterior that blends into the appearance of the Courthouse to the dedicated space to address inmates’ mental health needs.” said Commissioner Gary Mixan, who serves as vice chair of the County Board. “Security was obviously a key consideration, and this design allows us to keep our community, our staff and the inmates safe.”
The county’s existing 148-bed jail opened in 1989, but has consistently exceeded capacity since the mid-1990s. At various times in the past two years, the jail population exceeded 200 inmates, meaning Sarpy County has had to pay to house inmates at other facilities. The lack of capacity has led to unsustainable costs for staffing and transporting inmates to and from other facilities.
The core services in the new facility, including medical care, food service, laundry, master control center and intake/release area, are designed to accommodate future expansions and an additional 224 beds. The new layout also allows the Correction’s Department to utilize a direct-supervision model, which is an industry standard best practice for safety in correctional centers.
“When we open the new facility, corrections officers will work directly in the inmate living area. This allows the officer to have an immediate view of the inmates as well as continual interaction with each of them. Direct supervision will enable the officers to communicate expectations about behavior and hold inmates accountable when they violate rules,” said Commissioner Jim Warren.
Construction costs for the approved schematic design are estimated at $68.5 million, with an additional $11.4 million in architecture and engineering fees, furnishings, equipment and contingency funds. The County has been saving for the cost of a new jail for several years, with $13.5 million accumulated in the Sinking and Inheritance Tax funds. The County will issue bonds for the remainder of the cost, estimated at $66.4 million.
The annual bond payments are estimated at $4.9 million per year, which will be paid with a portion of the County’s existing levy. Current financial analysis shows the county will not need to raise the levy to pay for the bonds or the additional staffing costs associated with the new jail.
In an effort to control costs, the County Board in April hired JE Dunn Construction as the project’s construction manager. The company will build the jail for a guaranteed maximum price, which will be presented to the County Board for approval during the next phase of the design process.
“From the beginning, the County Board charged the design team and our finance department to come up with a plan that meets the needs of a growing county with a state-of-the art facility but doesn’t add an extra burden to Sarpy County taxpayers. They’ve accomplished both with this facility,” Commissioner Kelly said. “Through sound fiscal management and innovative designs, they’ve come up with a jail and a funding plan that doesn’t dip further in the pockets of our residents.”
Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2021 and be completed in late 2022.
For more information about the new jail, including a project timeline and frequently asked questions, visit Sarpy.com/jail.