After delay, Warren County moves ahead with construction of $45M jail

The Warren County Board of Commissioners voted today to contract with the Ohio architectural firm Wachtel & McAnally to design the new Warren County Jail.

The firm replaces KZF Design, a Cincinnati firm that planned to collaborate with California-based Dewberry on the project.

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The commissioners picked KZF over Wachtel & McAnally, the firm preferred by a staff committee.

Sheriff Larry Sims said this firm has designed about a third of the state’s county jails.

“Today is a great day for Warren County. We are grateful our commissioners have agreed to a contract to hire Wachtel & McAnally as our architect and planners for our new jail and sheriff’s office,” Sims said in an email after the vote.

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Negotiations broke down with KZF, and the commissioners authorized negotiations with the Ohio firm in December.

With Commissioner Dave Young absent, commissioners Shannon Jones and Tom Grossmann voted on Tuesday to approve a contract with the Ohio firm, agreeing to pay it 7.5 percent of the total construction cost, expected to be $44 million to $45 million. The estimated fee is $3.3 million.

“Our jail has been overcrowded for years now, and we have been releasing or refusing inmates on a regular basis. This can’t come soon enough,” Sims added.

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Next, the county is to select a construction manager for the project and complete construction design by June 2019.

Deputy Administrator Martin Russell said the architect and construction manager will work with county staff on plans, including whether to build an entirely new facility or expand the existing jail in the county complex in Lebanon, or build the new facility on land on the edge of Lebanon.

“We’ll evaluate all options. It’s preferred it would be kept on the current site,” Russell said, adding he hoped to shorten timetable.

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Construction of the new jail is expected to take two years, meaning it is expected to open in 2021.

“Even though we have a way to go, we are now able to sit at the table to plan for our future,” Sims said.

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