LACONIA — Belknap County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy says that a public hearing on a proposed $8 million bond issue to build an 18,000-square-foot, 64-bed community corrections center and make upgrades to the current Belknap County House of Corrections is in the process of being scheduled for October 27 at 7 p.m.
He said that he had talked with Belknap County Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) about the date and says that the convention will meet on November 2 at 6 p.m. to vote on the bond issue, which will require a two-thirds majority from the 18-member convention.
At a meeting in early September, Belknap County Commissioners voted unanimously to support the plan developed by SMP Architecture of Concord, which calls for spending $7,171,928 for a community corrections center as well as $491,000 for upgrades to the existing county jail, which currently has 87 beds. County corrections Interim Superintendent Keith Gray said that parts of the current jail which are too difficult to renovate would no longer be used, leaving the current facility with a capacity of 60 inmates.
The proposed cost of the community corrections facility includes a $700,000 contingency fund.
Additional items were budgeted at $668,300.
Also included in the overall operating plan are security and program costs, which are estimated at $650,000 for hiring six additional Department of Corrections staffers and contracting with private firms to provide programs aimed at helping offenders deal with drug, alcohol and mental health problems before they are released into the community.
Kevin Warwick of Alternative Solutions Associates, Inc., a consulting firm hired by the county to develop programs for a community corrections center, has noted that Belknap County currently has the lowest staffing of any county jail in the state with only 30 staff members and a capacity of 93 inmates. Carroll County has 36 staffers with an inmate capacity of 60 while Grafton County has 54 staffers and a capacity of 115 inmates. Sullivan County, which served as a model for the plan developed for Belknap County, has a 56 staffers and a capacity of 95 inmates.
He and Ross Cunningham, who was corrections superintendent in Sullivan County when its community corrections facility was built, both say that doing nothing is not an option for Belknap County as the county faces the possibility of lawsuits unless its facility meets federal standards, which it does not.
DeVoy is chairman of the Jail Planning Committee, whose members include Warwick, Cunningham, Keith Gray, Interim Superintendent of the Belknap County Corrections Department, Deb Shackett, Belknap County Administrator; Dustin Muzzey, Belknap County facilities manager; Brian Loanes, director of the Restorative Justice Program, Nicole Mills and Tamara McGonagle, staff members at the Belknap County Corrections Department.
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