Polk chooses consultant for new jail study

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2015

sheriff office
Polk County Commissioners have made their first big decision in building a new jail for the county.

Commissioners came to a consensus during a Feb. 23 workshop to hire Moseley Architects to conduct a Polk County Jail study to determine the county’s future needs.

Moseley designed Transylvania County’s Jail, which is where Polk County houses its overflow inmates. Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill told commissioners his pick of the consultants who bid on Polk’s project is Moseley, which has offices in North and South Carolina and Virginia.

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County commissioners began discussions last year of building a new jail. Polk County’s jail was built in the 1970s and has 25 beds. The current jail is normally at over capacity and is not equipped to house either female inmates or juvenile inmates.

Polk County Jail Administrator Robert Gordon said Moseley offers a good deal of support as far as the transition. He said the former Transylvania County Jail was similar to Polk County’s current jail and Moseley had a transition team. Gordon said they knew they would have more employees in the new jail and went ahead and hired and trained the extra employees with Moseley developing a transition plan.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said he spoke with the county manager from Avery County while at a conference in Asheville and his suggestion was for Polk officials to visit other facilities. Gasperson said Madison, Yancey and Avery counties have done built or expanded facilities in recent years, with Avery County doing a $6 million project without any debt. Gasperson said one thing Avery County didn’t catch until the process was all done was the increase in employees. He said Avery went from nine full-time employees to 23 full-time.

Gasperson asked Gordon if he thinks Polk’s increase in staff would be more than that and Gordon answered, “yes sir.”

Currently, including Gordon, Polk’s jail has 10 employees with a $400,000 annual budget. Gordon said Polk would need six minimum employees per shift, seven likely and ideally he’d like to see Polk’s new jail have 160 beds.

Gasperson suggested Polk County talk to other jails to give insights and answer questions Polk may have never thought of otherwise.

Commissioner Shane Bradley said going and looking at other facilities is not a bad idea but he trusts Polk’s jail officials to let commissioners know what Polk needs locally.

“I don’t need to look at a jail in Charlotte to know what Polk County needs,” said Bradley.

Commissioner chairman Tom Pack said that’s what will be done in the needs assessment is to find out what Polk County needs. He said he is fine with going and looking at other jails if that’s what the consultant wants Polk to do.

Commissioners came to a consensus to hire Moseley with Pack saying the next step will be for Moseley to talk to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to ensure they are covering all things in the study Polk County needs.

Pack said commissioners will need to set another workshop to decide the budget.

“We need to have that early on so they know what they have to work with,” Pack said.

Gasperson said he disagrees with the process as he wanted commissioners to pick the top two then interview them.

Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said the consensus is to go get an estimate on what it would cost to provide the services to Polk. He said the original document was sent out in the bid proposal, which had a very clear expectation of what Polk County needs. Pittman said Moseley would give Polk their cost estimate based on that document.

The bid request included that a consultant conduct a needs assessment to determine Polk’s 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; to 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.

Polk received proposals from ADW Architects out of Charlotte, Hemphill Randel Assoc. Inc. out of Charlotte, LaBella Associates out of Charlotte and Moseley Architects-Charlotte.

Sheriff’s office officials said the sheriff’s office is projected to spend $160,000 this year to house overflow inmate elsewhere and the sheriff’s office is out of money already this budget year.

Pittman said part of the feasibility study will be for the consultant to assess Polk’s needs and to determine growth and how many beds Polk County will need in the future.

Pack said once the consultant has decided how many beds Polk County’s jail will need, commissioners can begin to discuss the possibility of housing state and/or federal inmates, which is a possibility for Polk County to generate income.