In August 2012 the Belknap County Commissioners engaged the New York firm of Ricci Greene Associates to develop a plan for a new jail for Belknap County.The Ricci Greene Associates Strategic Planning Report dated January 31, 2013 recommends a 94,451-square-foot facility having 185 beds, with a construction cost estimated by its authors of $392.58 per square foot, totaling $37,079,660, and a total cost including design and other related costs of $450.81 per square foot, which produces a total estimated project cost of $42,579,660.
Despite widespread vocal opposition to the proposed jail plan and its projected cost, the county commissioners are currently requesting that the Belknap County Convention approve $500,000 for extensive architectural design work to be based on the jail plans contained in the Ricci Greene Strategic Planning Report. The commissioners are using the Ricci Greene plans as their starting point for a new county jail even though they are aware that the square footage cost projected in the Ricci Greene report far exceeds the national average cost for county jail construction in the United States. R. S. Means, the bible of construction costs in the United States, currently reports the average cost for county jail construction in the United States to be $223.53 per square foot using union labor and $207.14 per square foot using open shop labor.
In addition to ignoring average construction costs, the commissioners have chosen to stick with the Ricci Greene plan despite an awareness on their part that several county jails that comply with federal standards have been built in other locations for far less than the Ricci Greene estimated cost. While the states are not bound by federal jail standards, compliance with those standards is generally enough to overcome any claim that a particular correctional facility is substandard which could justify a court to mandate replacement of a facility. Compliance with the federal standards, therefore, is generally viewed as a wise course to follow in the construction of a new jail facility.
Of the newly constructed jail facilities which have been brought to the attention of the commissioners, one is in Wilkes County, North Carolina, where construction of a 52,000-square -oot, 224-bed facility is currently well under way. The estimated cost is $10,632,100 or $204.46 per square foot. Another example is in Henderson County, Tennessee. There, a 95,000-square-foot facility, including a jail to house 225 prisoners, two courtrooms, and the sheriff's office, was completed recently at a cost of $16,000,000 or $168.42 per square foot. Apparently both of these facilities required kitchens sufficient to feed the anticipated inmate population. The Belknap County facility, on the other hand, would not need this feature as food would continue to be prepared at the adjacent county nursing home.
Apparently in the minds of the county commissioners, the new jail project has reached the point where bids for construction are to be solicited. For the bidding process to happen, extensive architectural design work must be done. Rather than asking the County Convention to approve funds for a plan based on a facility that could be (or has been) built for a cost in the $12 to $15 million range with a square footage cost in line with the national average, the commissioners stubbornly continue to insist on the Ricci Greene proposal as the basis for the design work for the project. On the cost issue, their explanation is that they "believe the cost can be lowered through the competitive bidding process." Assuming the Ricci Greene people were competent in their cost projections, one can reasonably question the extent of cost reduction that might be accomplished through competitive bidding: could the cost be reduced to the $30 to $35 million range? If so, is that price acceptable?
Comparison of the projected Ricci Greene costs with average costs and examples of other jail construction costs is not the only evidence of the excessiveness of the plan being advanced by the commissioners. Examination of the Ricci Greene proposal itself reveals its gross extravagance. For example, included in the Ricci Greene design is a staff workout/weight room, which is a dedicated area housing multiple exercise machines and free weights to be used by the staff of the Sheriff's Office and the Corrections Department. This would constitute a wonderful employee benefit in prosperous times, but these are not prosperous times. In addition, the Ricci Greene proposal calls for a 3,000-square-foot gym for the inmates and also six areas within the walls of the facility and under its roof designated for "outdoor recreation". These are attached to various dormitories; five are 500-square-feet and one is 1,000-square-feet. These areas comprise 5,500-square-feet within the proposed building to be used for inmate physical activity.
For an inmate population the size of that contemplated by Ricci Greene, the federal standards require a 1,000-square-foot space with an 18-foot ceiling dedicated to inmate exercise within the building itself. The federal standards also require that each inmate be provided at least one hour of exercise opportunity per day, indoors or outdoors. Clearly, the Ricci Greene proposal of 5,500-square-feet under the roof of the proposed jail far exceeds what is required under the federal standards. It is unrealistic to expect Belknap County taxpayers to support such a lavish jail facility at a time when all public institutions, including schools and libraries and parks, are hurting for funds.
In addition to the multiple indoor recreation areas, the Ricci Greene proposal has five rooms designated as multipurpose. These rooms have a total area of almost 1,000-square-feet. The proposed plan also includes two classrooms of 250-square-feet each, a 250-square-foot library, eight interview rooms, a 200-square-foot group counseling room and an 80-square-foot individual counseling room. All this for an anticipated 185 inmates.
The Ricci Greene proposal also includes a 1,200-square-foot "receptor kitchen" to receive the food prepared and plated in the adjacent nursing home located a few feet away from the planned jail.
A final example of the design extravagance of the proposal consists of the various day rooms planned for the dormitory areas. There are eight dormitory areas within the core jail facility designed for sleeping. Under federal standards, each such area should have a "day room" with an area of at least 35-square-feet per inmate housed within the particular section. The jail proper of the Ricci Greene design has 116 beds, with the remainder of sleeping areas being part of a separate housing unit designated as the Community Correction Center.
The eight core jail dormitory areas would require a total of 4,060-square-feet of "day room" space under federal standards. The eight "day rooms" within the Ricci Greene design total 7,780-square-feet, exceeding the federal requirement by 3,720-square-feet, or approximately 90 percnt. In other words, the Ricci Greene design that the commissioners wish to use as a starting point for planning the new jail project contains inmate day room space for the primary part of the jail that is almost double the amount required by federal standards.
A tour of the current jail with its obvious and serious state of disrepair is likely to lead even the most frugal observer to the conclusion that a new jail is needed. Such a tour also underscores how fortunate we in Belknap County are to have Superintendent Daniel Ward and his very able staff running our correctional facility. They are doing a great job in a facility one observer has described as an example of demolition by indifference. For example, despite severely limited classroom space, 85 inmates have earned their GED since 2010. Of these only nine have returned to jail — eight for probation violations and one to pay off a fine. Since 2010, 131 inmates have completed the ADAPT Group program aimed at solutions for substance abuse — only 19 have returned. Other rehabilitative programs have produced similar results. A better facility might well make for even better results. Regardless, if the current substandard facility is not replaced, we are likely to see a lawsuit that would produce a court ordered new jail. These realities should encourage us, the people of Belknap County, regardless of political persuasion, to do the right thing — to build a new county jail. Which brings us to the issue at hand — what is the best course to pursue to the desired end?
It is bad enough that the taxpayers of our county paid over $150,000 to obtain the Ricci Greene report with its many frills — a proposal laced with things we neither need nor can afford. And now the commissioners appear committed to double down on the past mistake. Requesting $500,000 for architectural design work based on the Ricci Greene plan is highly unlikely to lead to construction of a new jail. First, it will be shocking if this request for a half million dollars for design work is approved. Second, it would be even more shocking if any County Convention were to approve the funding for a new county jail in an amount far exceeding the average national cost for county jail construction. And in the same vein, it would be even more shocking if any legislator who voted to approve such an excessive construction cost was ever re-elected. Against a background of commonsense and practical reality, paying $500,000 for design work based on Ricci Greene has to be viewed as throwing good money after bad. Insistence on this approach seems obstinate and foolhardy. The commissioners would serve the people of Belknap Count better to acknowledge the past mistake in a forthright manner and move now in a new direction to give us a new jail that is both appropriate and affordable for our county. As the current facility continues to deteriorate from lack of maintenance, time is becoming even more of the essence. Let's start again and get it right this time.
(Hunter Taylor is a resident of Alton. He was a participant on the Belknap County Jail Planning Committee from October 2013 to January 27, 2014, when he withdrew. In 2010, he retired as partner in the law firm of Taylor and Keyser in Mr. Holly, NJ. He is professor emeritus at the Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, NJ.)
Last Updated on Monday, 10 February 2014 09:43
To The Daily Sun,
Nick Vazzana of socialist-soaked Sandwich drones us all to sleep again with another lesson in failed "donkeynomics". Nick alleges to have have run some company for 30 years. Put that down as the 8th Wonder of the World. It is more than clear this man knows squat about how basic economic principles, incentives and taxation ( or lack of it) drive business formation and job creation. Nick says Henry Ford doubled the wages of his employees. What he did not say was how Henry did it. That was by single-handedly inventing the automobile assembly line that produced TWICE as many cars with the SAME AMOUNT of labor cost. No mystery, just labor productivity improvements supporting wage increases. The antithesis of Henry Ford? The recent taxpayer funded GM bailout costing tens of billions after the UAW union had driven GM into bankruptcy after 30 years of never ending monster wage hikes and lucrative benefit increases while NEVER increasing productivity and car output to pay for any of it. The taxpayers got screwed by union labor one more time. Tell me the last time you heard any union promise to greatly increase labor productivity and improve quality in their contract in order to pay for their wage/benefit demands? YOU CANNOT. It is ONLY productivity improvements that increase living standards.
Nick complains the jobs crisis is because Republicans refuse to work with Obama. Nick is somewhere in outer space with his logic, like most liberal-progressive.socialists. It seems Nick forgot the voters had the opportunity to change the color of Congress a few months back. They DECLINED to do so. In fact, when voters gave Congress back to Republicans in 2010 they did it with the BIGGEST landslide in 75 years, after Obama and both DONKEY Congresses had crammed down TAX AND SPEND INSANITY on voters for two solid years. Nick seems to have a memory capacity shortage. Obama now has lowest job approval ratings of his presidency with GOOD REASON. The electorate has smartened up. After 5-years in office, George Bush, Clinton and Regan all had higher job approvals than Obama now has. Like all liberals, Nick has to find somebody to blame. It is all Democrats know. . . blame somebody. At least he stopped blaming George Bush — that took five years. Now it is just GENERIC Republicans to blame. Tell you what Nick, I give you a chance to put your liberal BS blabber where your mouth is. I bet you even money that 12 months from now there will be MORE Republicans in both the Senate and the House than there are today. You name the amount. If you think Democrats are so GREAT then put up or shut up. The public has had it up to their EYE BALLS with Democrats and their OVER-THE-TOP, endless failure of Obamacare with more horror stories that come out every day. Get this, 60 percent of the UNINSURED do not even like or support Obamacare. The Congressional Budget Office just reported Obamacare will destroy the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs over the next few years and cost businesses ONE TRILLION dollars in new taxes and expenses. Nick, you think that STIMULATES business investment and job CREATION? We NOW have the FEWEST small business start ups in 20 years. American businesses refuse to invest because Obama is a crazy man, continually demonizing them and their profit motive while threatening new taxes and new regulations to hand cuff them in EVERY SPEECH. There has never been any president more threatening to business on every level, on every front than Barack Obama.
Last Updated on Monday, 10 February 2014 09:59
To The Daily Sun,
Does N.H. really want Medicaid expansion?
As with most of Obamacare, not all parts of the bill have been made public before the passing of the bill.
Under Medicaid expansion those who own property (home, car, etc.), the federal government can put a lean on property after the person dies to pay back the federal (not state) government what it paid out under the Medicaid expansion.
Why is this not in the media? Is this something we want? What happens if one spouse dies? Can the other be kicked out of the home to sell it to pay for the benefit?
Why do we not know the ramifications before a bill passes.... Especially when part of Obamacare?
Last Updated on Friday, 07 February 2014 11:00
To The Daily Sun,
The people of New Hampshire cannot afford to allow Joe Kenny to be elected to the Executive Council.
The Executive Council, unique to this state, is another "check" on the state's executive branch. The council provides "advice and consent" to the N.H. Governor when he or she spends money allocated by the Legislature, appoints judges of all state courts, grants pardons and commutations, or performs other duties. The job is too important to go to an ideological extremist like Mr. Kenny.
Mr. Kenny's supporters may tell you that as a Republican, he is the "natural" replacement for the late Councilor Ray Burton. But, Ray and Mr. Kenny could not be more dissimilar. I knew Ray and found him to be a fine gentleman who encouraged everyone, especially young people, to be part of the political process. Politically, Ray was a moderate Republican who was re-elected for years by members of both parties. The main reason he kept his seat on the council for so many years was that he was a moderate who could talk with — and respect — Granite Staters of all political persuasions
Although a Republican, Ray distanced himself from extremist conservative movements like the Tea Party, the Free Staters, and the "Birthers." He truly "reached across the aisle" and gave constituent advice to everyone. As a result, both Republicans and Democrats voted for him over and over again but he never took a single vote for granted. His death came too soon and he will be sorely missed.
Joe Kenny, on the other hand, is an extremist with an anti-worker, anti-education, and anti-woman agenda. He would like to distance himself from the extremism he has shown as a state senator now that he is running for Executive Councilor but the record speaks for itself.
Most disturbing has been his record on reproductive rights in the New Hampshire Senate. He is openly anti-choice and seems to like to target Planned Parenthood over the abortion issue in spite of the fact that much more money is spent by the organization providing other women's health services such as pre-natal care, contraception, and cancer screens.
As a N.H. Senator, he voted to defund Planned Parenthood, forcing it to curtail its contraceptive and STD prevention programs. He also voted for the parental notification bill, against emergency contraception (the "morning after pill"), and against extending Medicaid funding for family planning service.
When it comes to health care, Mr. Kenny seems to take his conservative principles so seriously, that he opposes expanding Medicaid in the state. Even though the startup and initial expansion of Medicaid would be funded fully by the federal government and provide health care for thousands of citizens, Mr. Kenny, like others on the extreme right, seem more interested in seeing Obamacare fail than in the health and welfare of people in this state. His record on the environment is not much better. He voted against the regional greenhouse initiative. He also was opposed to a law that would help protect children from lead poisoning.
Moreover, in the State Senate, he worked hard to prevent the state from taking even reasonable, moderate steps to try and control the escalating gun violence that is in the news every day. He voted in favor of New Hamshire's "Stand Your Ground Law" which is an invitation for abuse and unnecessary uses of force.
While in the Senate, Mr. Kenny also voted to make New Hampshire a "right to work" state. In spite of the positive-sounding name, "right to work" laws are lobbied for by big business to take away workers' rights.
Finally, it is very disturbing that Mr. Kenny has the endorsement of the extreme right in his district. For example, a far-right website Granite Grok seems to be behind him. Rep. Charlotte Worseman, another "pro-life" far-right ideologue who is currently using the Belknap County Convention as a forum for her intolerant extremism has also endorsed Mr. Kenny.
Joe Kenny is no Ray Burton. I guess Ray might resent the comparison but knowing Ray, he is probably stretched out on his cloud right now laughing at the very implication.
E. Scott Cracraft
Last Updated on Friday, 07 February 2014 10:55
To The Daily Sun,
I saw a bumper sticker on a car a few days ago. It read: "Don't watch Fox News". I wondered why someone would want to shut out part of what happens in the world.
Remember the Trevon Martin case? Who doesn't? The non-Fox News media ran this story in the front page for several months and even created a new race classification; "White Hispanic". George Zimmerman's name appeared daily in the news media and even after he was acquitted. I'm guessing this person who doesn't watch Fox News was well versed in the names of the "victim" and the "assailant".
A few months ago in New Jersey, a man was murdered in front of his wife by four men who simply killed him for his car. This story made the non-Fox News for a few days until it was learned that it was four black men who killed a white man. There was no question about these assailants not killing out of self-defense. It was a brutal murder by four men. Do you think that person with the bumper sticker can name just one of those assailants or the victim? Of course not, because this story did not fit the non-Fox News media agenda and it was dropped from the radar.
Last Updated on Friday, 07 February 2014 10:37