Polk seeks bids for new jail feasibility study

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Polk County Commissioners unanimously approved seeking RFPs for a jail assessment and feasibility study for a new jail. (Photo by Leah Justice)

Polk County Commissioners unanimously approved seeking RFPs for a jail assessment and feasibility study for a new jail. (Photo by Leah Justice)

by Leah Justice

Although the process will take years, Polk County is soliciting bids from architects or jail planning services for a needs assessment and feasibility study for a new detention center.

The new board of commissioners was sworn into office on Dec. 1 and one of its first decisions was to unanimously approve seeking bids for a jail feasibility study. The approval came after commissioners held a special work session in October to specifically discuss the future of the jail.

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Polk’s jail, located at 40 Ward St., Columbus, has 25 beds and often has 40 or more inmates at a time. The county currently contracts with the Transylvania County Jail to house overflow inmates, including all women and juvenile inmates, which Polk County cannot house.

During Polk’s Dec. 1 meeting, commissioner Keith Holbert said he would like included in the study the possibility of housing state and federal inmates so the county can determine if they want to include cells for those prisoners.

Commissioner Michael Gage said he would like to include the possibility of Polk housing minors and females.

The request for proposals (RFPs) states that the Polk County Board of Commissioners is interested in determining jail needs over the next 25 years.

Polk is asking that the study conduct a needs assessment to determine the inmate population projections for five, 15 and 25 years and the number of beds needed for each study period; projections for staffing and direct and indirect costs and supervision alternatives; conduct a site analysis based on the population projections to determine whether the existing site is feasible for the ultimate size of the facility and if so, where the facility optimally needs to be placed; conduct an assessment of the jail “core” spaces to include space for administrative, intake/processing, laundry, inmate storage, dry goods storage, employee break room areas, training and food service areas to determine the appropriate size for the anticipated ultimate capacity for the new jail; review all detention contracted services to evaluate if the county is getting the best available service, commission or rates offered; provide a facility program of spaces with sizes and relationships; provide a visual conceptual floor and site plan of each option and to provide a total cost estimate for each option developed.

Since 2012, Polk has spent a total of $195,628 (as of October 2014) housing inmates in other counties. The number of inmates processed at Polk’s jail has also increased significantly over the past few years, with 715 processed in 2011 and 926 processed as of October 2014. There were 687 inmates processed in 2013, according to sheriff’s office records.

Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said a study of all Polk’s facilities was done in 2006 and determined the sheriff’s office and the jail had serious issues then. The study discussed parking being unsecure, issues with filing and storage cabinets, inadequate kitchen space and noted that the magistrate’s office was “awful.”