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County to build jail expansion
October 07, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Ten years after the Scotts Bluff County Detention Center opened, the county board is now planning to add another 132 beds to the facility.

The new modular pod will be built onto the east side of the current detention center, where a concrete pad, electrical wiring and plumbing hookups had been installed during the original construction.

At its Oct. 3 regular meeting, county commissioners agreed to bring in Denver based Riley Johnson, the original jail architects, to advise them on the new construction. Board Chairman Mark Masterton said they’d like to start construction in the spring of 2017 with a projected completion date of spring 2018. The estimated cost of the new pod is in the $11.5 million range. When complete, the jail will have a maximum 320 beds of space available.

The new construction will not be bonded, so there will be no additional tax asking for the project. Masterton said much of the cost would be recouped by savings from the estimated $700,000 the county is currently paying to transport and hold adult prisoners who were moved to other facilities to alleviate overcrowding here.

While construction of new jail pod is underway, the former juvenile section of the existing jail will continue to be used to house female prisoners.

“We don’t know what the population will be,” Masterton said. “Our hope is that the new facility will encompass both adult males and females, so we can turn the other section back over for juveniles. If the new facility is full, we’ll need to build a smaller six bed juvenile facility south of the main building.”

Masterton said when the original jail was built 10 years ago, projections indicated it wouldn’t be full for 25 years. It happened in five.

“We did have the foresight to install the infrastructure for an addition if we needed it,” he said. “If this new pod fills up faster than projected, we have no other contingency plan. “We can’t afford any more of this.”

Commissioner Ken Meyer added that with a new capacity of 320 beds, Scotts Bluff County will have one of the largest county jails in the state. “If we can get Wyoming to agree to house some our prisoners, it should help with the current overcrowding we have,” Meyer said.

Masterton continued the only other contingency plan would be for the detention center to become a truly regional jail to hold prisoners from all 11 Panhandle counties.

“We already have the capability for video arraignments, so there are no transportation costs,” he said. “But the state will have to enforce jail standards for that to happen. There are a lot of facilities that aren’t even close to using modern standards, but they’re still grandfathered in so they don’t have to meet today’s standards.”
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