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County considers old jail for more space
April 07, 2011 Jerry Purvis    Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen

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With Scotts Bluff County in need of more office and storage space, the county board on Monday discussed a proposal to use the old county jail building to fill that need.

Carol Prince, director of operations for the county, told commissioners the first floor of the jail has been cleaned up as much as possible, but no structural changes have been made. The first floor used to be the sheriff’s offices. The second floor was the jail itself and contained rows of individual cells. Currently, the county is using that floor for records storage.

Prince told the board she had received two estimates for removing the cells from the second floor. One was for about $90,000 for everything. The other was about $59,000, but was for construction work only and excluded filling in the holes left from removal of the structural fittings.

Some time ago, a proposal was made to use both floors for office space and storage, but as that was put on hold, individual departments moved more of their records into the building.

“We really don’t know what we’re going to do with that building,” said board chairman Mark Masterton. “With these estimates, this is a project that will take some time. First the board has to decide what we want to use the building for.”

Under the original proposal, the probation office would have relocated to the first floor of the old jail. But Linda Buehler, district probation director, told commissioners on Monday the way the first floor is set up wouldn’t work for her office.

“We were really hoping to put a reporting center there, along with our offices,” Buehler said. “But when the first plan was drawn, it was with existing walls. There was a lot of dead space we’d have to work around. There’s no way we could put both our offices and a reporting center in that space.”

She added that if the entire first floor were gutted, she would take another look whether it would work for the probation offices.

“We’ve got a perfectly good building here,” Masterton said. “The question becomes whether we want to spend the money to fix it up.”

Commissioner Mike Marker said the county was probably looking at doing the project in stages. Stage one would be to remodel the first floor, making it acceptable for office space. But the second floor jail cells would need to be removed before the office space could be utilized, due to the noise involved.

Marker recommended a committee be formed to look at the building, determine the county’s budget and then develop a plan on how to proceed. He said the second floor should remain for records storage and the first floor used for potential office space.

Chance Florke, the county’s information systems director, told commissioners the second floor was an ideal place for records storage because of easy access for the county’s various departments.

Florke told the board they also needed to be aware that fiber optic cables run between the old jail and the administration building.

“The fiber optic cables run right through the cells you’re talking about tearing out,” Florke said. “It shouldn’t be taking that path and I’m looking into getting that corrected regardless of what you do with the building.”
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