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County wants to know cost of jail remodel
August 15, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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The Scotts Bluff County Board of Commissioners wants to know the cost of remodeling the first floor of the old county jail before moving the district probation office.

During a special commissioners meeting Monday, District 12 Chief Probation Officer Linda Buehler asked the board to consider hiring an architect to determine the cost of the remodel. Reilly Johnson, the Denver architect that designed the new county detention facility, estimated the cost to remodel the first and second floors of the jail building would be just over a million dollars. But that was in 2008. The firm estimated the cost of remodeling only the first floor would have been in the $700,000 range.

Buehler asked the county board to hire Reilly Johnson to “value engineer” the estimates to determine a more realistic cost for the remodel if it were done today.

“My concern is that we’re spending money we don’t have,” said Commissioner Ken Meyer. “I don’t have anything against architects, but maybe there’s a local engineering firm we can deal with. We shouldn’t have to spend most of the budget on architectural costs. I want to see this project completed, but I’d rather put the funds we do have into bricks and mortar.”

Commissioner Steve Stratton agreed, saying the project was basically a remodel of an existing building and only has to conform to all building codes and offer adequate space to house offices for the expanded juvenile probation program.

Commissioner Mike Marker questioned which approach would save more money in the long run – hiring an architect or a local engineering firm to make recommendations on the project.

“Whether we hire an architect or a local contractor, we need some guidance in the best way to proceed with the remodel,” Marker said. “Reilly Johnson has helped us in the past and they did a great job.”

But Commission Chairman Mark Masterton said they can’t afford to make a mistake because they’re using taxpayer money. So the board agreed to advertise a Request for Proposals to see if a local firm can meet their needs at an affordable price.

Even if the project were to start tomorrow, remodeling the first floor of the old county jail would be a long-term project. In the meantime, the county is looking at options for temporary office space for additional staff in the juvenile probation office.

LB 561, passed this session by the Nebraska Legislature, outlines how the state will address juvenile services. Included is the provision that more juvenile probation services will be handled at the county level, rather than the state. That created the need for more probation officers and more office space.

Buehler said that if her office is successful in receiving a state grant, it would authorize her to hire two new officers to handle the increased caseload. There might be more hiring in the future as well.

The area served by District 12 Probation includes Scotts Bluff, Banner, Box Butte, Cheyenne, Dawes, Garden, Grant, Deuel, Garden, Sioux, Kimball, Sheridan and Morrill Counties.
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