Page County has opted not to proceed with a study on the financial impact of a future closure of the Page County Jail.
During its meeting May 31, the Page County Board of Supervisors received an overview of what the potential study would include. However, after discussing the proposal, the approval of the study was defeated for lack of a motion.
Greg Wilde of the Samuels Group met with the board to review the study on the impact the closing of the jail at some point in the future would have on the county. The Samuels Group was hired in May of 2021 by the Board of Supervisors to conduct a comprehensive jail study to aid the county in reaching a decision on the potential construction of a new jail facility.
“People might think it looks like we’re closing the jail. We’re not closing the jail. This is just to see what it would cost if it ever came to that point,” Supervisor Jacob Holmes said.
With the first two phases of that study completed, Wilde and Samuels Group President Sid Samuels met with the board May 10 about continuing to the next phase of the study. The third phase of the study would provide the county with a schematic design of the jail facility, but would cost $25,000 and take approximately four months to complete.
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Prior to approving the third phase of the study, the board asked Wilde if the company could provide a financial impact on the closing of the jail, which would include transporting and housing inmates at a facility outside the county. The board felt this information would give them a better understanding of how quickly to move forward with a possible construction project.
Reporting back to the board Tuesday on that request, Wilde said it would give Samuels Group six to eight weeks to complete the impact study. He also quoted an additional cost of $5,000 for the new study.
“What you’ve been provided is a proposal that covers at least 15 areas that we’ll look at as we begin to peel back that onion. It’s a pretty intensive effort,” Wilde said. “We’ll look at the detailed items in terms of hard costs, but we’ll also look at some of those hidden costs of potential liability insurance risks and what would happen without the facility down the street. We’ll also look at some things that will consider public safety, as well as staff safety.”
Since Page County has a functioning jail facility at the current time, Wilde said these factors were not included in the previous evaluations. Although the third phases of the jail study would touch on some of these costs, he said they would not be researched to the extent they would be in the impact study.
“They are two very different things,” Wilde said.
Holmes said he expected the cost of this evaluation to apply toward the $25,000 fee for the third phase of the overall jail study. Instead, he said this would be an additional $5,000 expense for the county and would mean an expense of $30,000 to move forward with the project at this time.
As a result, Holmes said he was not in favor of taking on $5,000 in added costs for the impact study. Instead, Holmes believed the board could meet with the Page County Sheriff and Page County Auditor to determine a ballpark estimate of these costs.
“We just need to know, generally, how much risk we are exposed to. There can be some flex there,” Holmes said.
“I agree with that,” Supervisor Chuck Morris said. “I think we can ballpark it enough to get the data to prove it’s not a very fiscally responsible way of approaching a jail.”
Supervisor Chairperson Alan Armstrong thanked Wilde for taking the time to present the details of the impact study. However, since there was no motion to proceed with either the impact study or the third phase of the overall jail study, Armstrong said the board would contact the Samuels Group within the next six months if it chose to continue with the project.
“You thought, originally, six months was a safe time window for us to make some decisions on this next phase. After that, we’re pushing the element of redesigning everything and updating all the numbers. So, over the next 180 days or less, we’ll make a decision on what we’re going to do and move forward,” Armstrong said.
In other business, Morris updated the board on a meeting of the Emergency Management Agency Commission held May 26. During that meeting, he said the commission discussed plans to restructure the management of the EMA and the 9-1-1 radio dispatchers in the county.
“It changes the structure of the funding stream. It’s the same dollars, but just budgeted differently,” Morris said. “Our EMA Commission was, I think, in unanimous approval of moving in this direction. Basically what it does is it takes the EMA position and makes it an EMA position and separates it from the dispatch, from the radio part.”
Kris Grebert resigned as the Page County EMA Coordinator May 16. As a result, Morris said the EMA Commission will be accepting applications for a new coordinator until June 24.