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Architect suggests idea for jail

The architect designing Scioto County’s new jail urged Lawrence County commissioners Thursday to follow the state’s process, then hire an experienced designer to plan ahead, if they want the best deal on a new county brig.

Wednesday, December 22, 1999

The architect designing Scioto County’s new jail urged Lawrence County commissioners Thursday to follow the state’s process, then hire an experienced designer to plan ahead, if they want the best deal on a new county brig.

"When you look at a jail, the big cost is not so much bricks and mortar, but the operational costs that keep going on afterward," said Michael Lonchar, of MGB Architecture and Engineering of Lancaster.

MGB is designing a 260-bed facility in Scioto County, with a total cost of $12.5 million, including fees, furniture and overhead. The operational cost is estimated at $2.4 million.

Lonchar detailed its five-floor plan and how flexible designing will meet future inmate-holding needs and expandability, even on the building’s 128-foot by 120-foot city lot.

The county is not ready to decide on even the type of a facility it wants, but is gathering information, Trent said.

"We have acquired property in the city, so we probably will be looking at something multi-level and this opens up avenues to think about," he said of Lonchar’s presentation.

The county is considering a new facility about half the size of the one in Scioto County, and talking with state officials about plans, Trent said.

Lonchar said the state’s Bureau of Adult Detention follows a five-phase program – the schematic, or preliminary design and proposal stage; a design development stage; the construction documents, which can lead to bids, stage; the construction stage; and the walk-through and move-in stage.

Following the procedure also puts an ongoing plan onto paper that will essentially serve as an "operations manual" for the county and its employees when the project is finished, Lonchar said.

The state dictates many space requirements, and design elements, of new jails but plans can range from dormitory style to cells and pods, he added.

Also, any county is eligible for state grants totaling $25,000 per bed, and there are federal grants, which Scioto County is using, Lonchar said.

In the end, designing well at first can lower costs and a ready-to-go jail design puts any county on top of the state’s grant list, he said.

"This gives us a different way to look at this," Trent said.

The county also has been in contact with at least one more architect and has formed a local jail committee to discuss the future project, which could take several years.

"This has really proven enlightening to us, in view of our owned property or even if we look for property," Trent said. "But we’re not ready for any decisions."