LACONIA — Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), who was apparently ousted as commission chairman by his colleagues Monday morning, gave a one-man presentation following the commission's meeting on progress on a plan being developed for a so-called community corrections center for the county.
''This is a discussion we should be having in Belknap County,'' said Burchell, who expressed skepticism that there was an appetite in the county for spending the amount of money he thinks it will take to build and staff an inmate rehabilitation and education center.
Burchell said that there was a meeting held Friday at the county jail which he attended along with Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward and Kevin Warwick and Ross Cunningham of Alternative Solutions Associates, Inc., the firm the county hired for $40,000 to develop a program for a community corrections facility.
He said that the study so far is focused on an approximately 30,000-square-foot facility with 64 beds which would cost between $7-$8 million and would require between seven and 10 new staff members.
Burchell suggested it would be less expensive for the county in the long run to build a $14-million jail along traditional lines because there would be a minimal staffing increase which would hold down future staffing costs compared to what it would cost for a community corrections facility.
The roughly outlined community corrections facility plan for the county would see 30 treatment beds, 20 for men and 10 for women, and 34 work release beds, 24 for men and 10 for women. The new facility, which would be built next to the current jail and possibly connected to it, would be of heavy commercial grade construction, several steps below the type of construction needed for a secure jail facility.
It would provide residential minimum security treatment as well as group space for programs.
Staffing requirements would be five correctional staff and a supervisor while program staff would entail three clinicians, two case managers, a full-time administrative assistant and half-time clerical position.
Burchell said that the Sullivan County Community Corrections Center, which county commissioners have eyed as a model for a Belknap County program, requires up to 300 hours of programming per inmate, which requires a large investment in staff.
He said that Belknap County Commissioners will need to take a close look at the associated costs, noting that if the staffing increase isn't funded a facility built to the community corrections standard would be ''a soft building which will get kicked to pieces'' by inmates.
Other key considerations under study include a control room replacement for the current facility with a complete security system for a cost of $350,000, as well as upgrade to the HVAC system for the existing jail with an eye to also having it handle the community corrections facility as well.
The initial recommendations by the consulting firm will be made to commissioners at a March 24 meeting with consultants providing recommendations for adjustments to the Ricci Greene plan square footage, which was 94,000-square-feet, in April. It is envisioned that the county would hire an architect in May to design a community corrections facility and review projected renovation costs to the current facility.
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