LACONIA — Staffing a proposed 64-bed community corrections facility is estimated to add $454,193 in first year costs to the current Belknap County Corrections Department budget according to a consulting firm hired by the county to develop programs for the facility.
Kevin Warwick and Ross Cunningham of Alternative Solutions Associates Inc. told members of the Beknap County Jail Planning Committee when it met Wednesday morning that staffing the new facility will requre six new members of the corrections staff, one of whom would be a supervisor, with the other new workers splitting the 168-hours per week work schedule which envisions one staffer at a time working in the new facility.
Also required for the proper functioning of the new facility would be a part-time clerk.
Cunningham, who is currently the assistant superintendent of the Merrimack County House of Corrections and the former superintendent of the Sullivan County Corrections Department, whose facility serves as a model for the programs being developed by Belknap County, said that the county should retain all of its current staffing positions in the older part of the current jail.
''You need to operate it (current jail) at current staffing levels until you see how things work out. Give it a year before you make any changes,'' he urged the committee.
He and Warwick also discussed program staff needs which were estimated to be four people, one case manager and three clinicians, who would provide programs designed to help inmates transition back into the community.
Warwick said that the county should contract with community providers for those positions, rather than hie additional staff, and that many those positions might qualify for federal grants through the Second Start program at least in their initial phase.
He said that not only would the county save money by not taking on health insurance costs for those providers, but it would also benefit by having them provide services on-site.
County Commissioner Dave DeVoy, who is chairman of the jail planning committee, said that he is hopeful that grant funding would be available for the program provider positions, which are estimated at $60,000 a year per per provider, which would add $240,000 a year to staffing costs, pushing the total increase in staffing costs to around $700,000.
Both Warwick and Cunningham said that of the provider positions are not filled it could mean that as many as 10 additional full-time jail staffing positions would be needed in order to adequately supervise the community corrections facility. They also said that over time there would be a 35 to 40 percent reduction in recidivsim, which will help the county lower its overall incarceration costs.
They urged the county to begin looking for grants for those provider positions while the new building is being constructed.
Plans call for 35 to 40 inmates to be housed in the old jail section, parts of which would rehabbed — with a 1954 wing being abandoned.
Project Manager Anthony Mento of SMP Architecture of Concord, the architectural firm which is designing the facility, and SMP President Eric Palson presented updated plans for the new facility, which will be a single-story wood-frame structure with gabled roofs for the entryways and clerestory windows allowing natural light to enter the hallways.
Public access to the corrections facility would be through a south-facing, covered entry which would be reached from a parking lot located off from the current driveway to the Belknap County complex. The proposed site plan also contains a separate entry road into the county complex for service vehicles only, near Lexington Drive, which would separate public traffic from service vehicles for a better traffic flow.
The new entryway will require approval from the city of Laconia before it can be built.
A sallyport (secure drive-through) will be connect the proposed new facility with the current jail, which would see parts of a 1987 addition repurposed and would keep alive an option for future expansion off from the 1987 addition.
Mento said that re-purposing some of the old jail will allow the incorporation of elements originally planned for the community corrections facility, such as training and exercise rooms, into the old jail and reduce the cost of the new facility in order to meet the $7 million limit set by County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy for the project.
Yesterday's presentation was originally designed for all three members of the county commission but only DeVoy showed up for the meeting. Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) said that he was aware of the meeting because it was on the county web site but missed it due to a car problem. Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that he was either not aware of the meeting or had forgotten abut it. Neither of the commissioners were contacted directly by any member of the jail planning group about the meeting.
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