Over the past few months, county officials have been working with a team of consultants to find a solution to the problem. The team reported to county officials that they recommend rehabilitating the new jail and adding on to it, as well as using Craig Sc
Consultants are recommending that Muskegon County rehabilitate and expand on the current jail and use Craig School for the Juvenile Transition Center.
The consulting teams of RQAW and Byce Engineering presented their recommendations to the Jail and Juvenile Transition Center Committee in front of a full house Thursday afternoon.
Joseph Mrak, senior vice president of RQAW, began the meeting with a presentation summarizing the work that has been done over the past few months beginning with the statistics and information found out before the design charette, a planning session that involved the public, which was held in August.
Throughout the process, the consulting firm discussed 88 different options before narrowing it down to three: building a completely new jail at the former Lift-Tech site on Broadway Avenue, renovating the former Roundy’s distribution center on Laketon Ave. and renovating Mercy General Hospital on Oak Street. After the charrette, two new options were added to the list: rehabilitating the current jail/expanding and using Craig School for the Juvenile Transition Center.
Mrak stated that based on the data compiled throughout the recent months, he would recommend a jail with a capacity of 502-528 beds, with the possibility of expanding to 582 beds. He recommended that the Juvenile Transition Center have 16 beds for detention and 16 beds for treatment.
These numbers are far less than the proposed jail study that was previously done by Carter Goble Lee, who recommended 752 beds that could be expanded to 920 and 32 detention beds and 16 treatment beds at the Juvenile Transition Center.
Mrak stated that while the jail population has steadied over the past 10 years, the jail is still running over capacity with an average of 403 inmates in a jail that was only built to house 370.
“There has been no room at the inn for a long time,” Mrak stated.
The new jail will have 155,000 square feet, which is around four times larger than the current jail. The new Juvenile Transition Center would be just less than 40,000 square feet.
The new jail would be expanded east of the current site, across Pine Street. The block of Pine by the county building would be closed off.
As far as cost, Mrak gave a few different options. For the base plan, which would include adding on the jail and leaving the current jail empty, it will cost $23.5-27 million for construction. If the county chose to include other upgrades, such as renovating the current jail to house more inmates and also the Sheriff’s Department offices, the cost would be $32-37 million. The operating costs would be roughly the same as they are now, even with a bigger jail. To compare, building an entirely new site at the Broadway site, it would cost the county $47 million.
After Mrak presented his plan, he took questions and comments from the committee members.
Scott Plummer, county commissioner, asked if anything would be done to the current jail if the county decided to go with the base plan.
Mark responded by saying that with the base plan, nothing would be done, but if the county chose to use the current jail, many parts would be completely replaced.
Mrak also recommended that the county build a project to fit within their means, and that maybe the project could be done in phases depending on funding.
Several audience members spoke about their thoughts on the recommendation. Larry Spataro, vice-mayor of the City of Muskegon, stated that while he understands the need for a new jail and would prefer that it stay in the city, he believes it would be a economic blow to the re-development of the downtown to close off Pine Street. He also stated that his neighbors have told him they would not want the Juvenile Transition Center in their neighborhood because of the noise.
The committee will now review the recommendations given by RQAW and Byce and then they will meet again on Thursday, Dec. 6, to hear the county administration’s financing options.