LACONIA — Belknap County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy said that he sees $7 million as the highest acceptable figure for building a new "community corrections" facility for the county and urged the architectural firm hired by the county to design the new building to see that as their target.
DeVoy was speaking at a meeting of the county's jail planning committee with SMP Architecture of Concord, held at the Belknap County Complex Wednesday morning.
SMP Architecture was hired last week to provide architectural and engineering services for a schematic design and cost estimates for the project.
Devoy said that some of the costs associated with reconfiguring the current jail for continued use could be handled outside of the projected $7 million bond issue if that was necessary in order to hold the line on costs.
''We've got more than $300,000 left in the jail planning account and another $200,000 in contingency which we could use,'' said DeVoy, who said that if necessary the work on the old facility could be spread out over several years and paid for as maintenance within the corrections department's annual budget.
DeVoy said that the yearly payment on a $7 million borrowing would be around $550,000, which the county could handle without a tax increase as bonds which are currently costing $600,000 a year in principal and interest payments will be retired in the near future.
He said that a $7 million bond is ''salable'' to the Belknap County Convention, where a two-thirds vote of the 18-member delegation is required for passage.
SMP President Eric Palson said that the company will keep that in mind but at some point during the planning process ''we're going to get push back from our experts and we'll hit the point where we can't squeeze out anymore.''
SMP, which designed the community corrections facility for Sullivan County (Claremont), which is the model that Belknap County is closely following.
SMP was hired after its $84,880 bid for the work was accepted by the county commission, even though the bid was higher than than a $62,500 bid from Cowan Goudreau Architects.
Commissioner said that they felt comfortable with SMP and felt it would best serve the needs of the county for a comprehensive plan for the new facility.
In addition to its architectural team of Palson, architect Jason LaCombe and Project Manager Anthony Mento, SMP is utilizing the services of six consulting engineers to develop the schematic design, including Bauen Corporation of Meredith for construction estimating. The project has an August 21 completion date.
Palson showed five different versions of where the new facility could be built at the site, including one which would require a separate entry road into the county complex for service vehicles only, which would separate public traffic from service vehicles and provide an alternative exit way for the Sheriff's Department.
He also said that access for construction vehicles during the construction of the new facility was a key element in the planning process which needed to be looked at closely.
Following the meeting with the jail planning committee, which includes DeVoy, County Administrator Deb Shackett, County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward and County Facilities Manager Dustin Muzzey, the SMP team toured the site with committee members.
SMP will be meeting every Thursday morning for the next few months with the jail planning group as well as Kevin Warwick and Ross Cunningham of Alternative Solutions Associates, Inc., a consulting firm hired by the county to develop a plan for a community corrections facility and programs which it would provide.
Next week the meeting will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon but after that it will switch to Thursday morning meetings at 9 a.m.
Warwick was a consultant for the Sullivan County project and Cunningham, who is currently the assistant superintendent for the Merrimack County House of Corrections, was superintendent for Sullivan County when the facility there was designed and put into operation.
They have developed a plan for a 64-bed community facility for Belknap County which will have have 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 would be built next to the current jail and connected to it through a newly created control room. It would contain 22,327-square-feet and a suggested addition which would include a small 2,500-square-foot gym, 1,500-square-feet of administrative space — all of which would bring the total space to just over 27,000-square-feet.
Palson said that one of the first steps will be paring down the size of the proposed facility, which would see the gym replaced by an exercise facility, as well as looking at mechanical issues and the possible removal of a wing of the current jail.
Several of the models Palson showed the committee featured the community corrections facility as a two-story facility, which DeVoy questioned due to concerns over the costs of an elevator which he said might run as high as $500,000, a number which LaCombe questioned.
Palson said that many of the renovation costs to the current facility are unknown and Muzzey pointed out that the deterioration of the concrete in parts of the old jail made some of the proposed fixes which have been looked at over the years unfeasible.
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