Jail planners look to cut costs of new facility below $30-million

LACONIA — Meeting for the first time since January, the Belknap County Jail Planning Committee last night discussed a concept plan which has the potential to reduce the size of a proposed 180-bed, 94,000 square foot new correctional facility by about 10,000 square feet.
Gary Goudreau, a committee member and an architect who developed the plan, said he was motivated to look at a way of reducing the square footage by a letter to the editor written by Hunter Taylor of Alton which appeared recently in the Laconia Daily Sun and an article he had read abut a 210-bed jail in Virginia which was estimated to cost between $20 million and $22 million.

After lengthy discussion, during which the committee's chairman, County Commissioner Ed Philpot, reiterated that the committee's goal all along has been to drastically reduce the $42.5 million estimated construction cost of a new facility, the committee decided to prepare a presentation to the Belknap County Convention for a $360,000 supplemental appropriation for a schematic design for the new facility.

"We should be able to push that below $30 million,'' said Philpot, who was joined in his support for moving ahead now on the schematic design by Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward who said that it is the essential next step and Alida Millham, former chairwoman of the Belknap County Convention, who told Ward ''a schematic is what you need.''

Late last year the committee developed a proposal for a $3.5 million bond issue which would include a 48-bed temporary housing unit, which would cost $1,584,681 for a three-year contract; $500,000 for a schematic design for a new facility, and $1 million for replacing the HVAC system at the current jail. Millham said that she had a feeling that the temporary housing unit proposal wouldn't fly as part of a bond issue package, and Ward said that he would forgo the temporary housing part in order to have the schematic design work only done this year.

Former Meredith Selectman Miller Lovett said he had met with Hunter Taylor, who last year suggested that a new facility could be built for $15 million, and said that he felt that the committee and community members opposed to the high price tag were working their way toward common ground, but that the Ricci Greene conceptual plan raised a ''red flag'' for critics and shouldn't be placed front and center in any discussions with the County Convention.

Millham said she was pleased that Goudreau came through with his new plan. "We have been in a stop mode and need to restart with what we've got,'' she said.

Goudreau said the savings in his plan range from 10 percent to 28 percent for the four different units and that using a triangular dayroom model brings them closer to 35 square foot per prisoner requirement, whereas the Ricci Greene plan is based on 70 square foot per prisoner.