Rowan close to choosing architect for jail annex
By Jessie Burchette
County officials are closing in on picking an architect to design a jail annex to ease overcrowding.
The new facility, expected to cost between $5 million and $6 million, will be designed to house 160 inmates in a dormitory setting.
County commissioners plan to seek voter approval in November of a quarter-cent sales tax to pay for the jail and $12 million-plus in emergency radio equipment and towers.
Last year a state jail inspector threatened to close the jail due to overcrowding, forcing the county to build additional capacity.
Although called an “annex” the structure most likely won’t be close to the current Rowan County Detention Facility at the corner of Liberty and Church streets. Officials have mentioned several possible sites on county-owned land, but no decision has been made.
Three firms are still in the running to design the facility. They include Moseley Architects and Ware Bonsall, both of Charlotte, and Brennan Architects of Columbia, S.C.
All three have extensive experience in designing detention facilities.
Ware Bonsall has worked for the county on other projects including the current completion of an unfinished section of the jail.
County Manager Gary Page said all of the proposals are similar with no frills.
“We’re looking at 160 beds as frugal as possible,” he said. “The cheapest way is to cut down on interior walls, major hardware, cut down on cells, cut down on plumbing in cells.”
The dormitory style with four sections housing 40 inmates each meets the criteria. The design includes a central tower for detention officers who will be able to see the entire area.
Under the proposal, misdemeanor offenders including those charged with bad checks, failure to pay child support, DWI, simple drug possession and related offenses would be housed in the new facility.
Those charged with more serious offenses and women would be housed in the downtown facility.
The committee will meet Monday at 5 p.m. in Room 211 of the Cohen County Administrative Offices Building to decide on which firm will be recommended to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. The committee includes Page, county commissioners Chad Mitchell and Raymond Coltrain, Sheriff George Wilhelm and Finance Director Leslie Heidrick.
Page noted the state has agreed to allow the current jail to house 210 inmates. And the county is continuing to lease space in Sampson County for 30 to 40 inmates a day.
Once the architect is selected, it’s expected to take about six months to complete design, drawings and put the project to bid and another 18 months to complete the facility.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.