McCOOK, Nebraska -- Red Willow County, Nebraska, county commissioners Monday morning authorized an Omaha, Nebraska, architectural and planning firm to prepare a written agreement of costs associated with the study of building a jail in McCook.
The "meat" of the study by Prochaska & Associates, according to commissioner Steve Downer of rural Bartley and Donald Prochaska, should be the study of five options, and the price tag associated with each:
* Add a jail and sheriff's office onto the north side of the courthouse in the 500 block of Norris Avenue.
* Renovate the existing county jail in the sheriff's office, also in the 500 block of Norris.
* Repurpose the existing City of McCook 96-hour holding cells.
* Build a new jail on a new site.
* Develop a hold-and-transfer facility and continue to lodge long-term prisoners in neighboring county jails.
Prochaska said the goal of any small jail design is to build "a right-sized jail spending and building as little as we can, with room for expansion, but without outgrowing it in 20 years."
The firm would help commissioners, and a jail study committee if one is involved in the process, comply with a Nebraska Jails Standards submittal process, which starts with planning and a program statement, financing and preliminary plans, and progresses to bidding, construction, pre-occupancy inspection and occupancy.
Prochaska and Associates also proposes to help explain the proposal to the public before a bond election.
Prochaska said that information gathered for the last jail study, in 2005-06, by Mark Martin and Gary Bowker of Allied Correctional Services of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Lakewood, Colorado, is still valid, and that figures can be adjusted for inflation.
Commission Chairman Earl McNutt asked Prochaska and his associate, Steven Riley, to "revise the numbers and get accurate data," to determine the cost effectiveness of building a jail and "hauling prisoners forever," helping commissioners "decide how we want the county to operate 20-30 years from now."
Sheriff Gene Mahon told Prochaska and Riley, "We've got to move forward ... make decisions." Mahon said that transporting prisoners has worked for 20 years, "and we've been extremely fortunate that there have been no accidents and no escapes."
Mahon said that transporting prisoners takes valuable time away from deputies, whom Prochaska said have been "converted to limousine drivers ... bus drivers. That's not the worst thing in the world, but it's not cost effective."
Prochaska said that the economic development opportunities associated with the initial construction and then the operation of a jail are often overlooked. "The opportunities are significant," he said, including construction jobs, facilities operation jobs and stopping the "export of cash" as jail space rent to neighboring counties.