Critics continue to press for smaller jail on current campus

A member of Citizens for Better Government in Vigo County said Tuesday he doesn’t think enough comparison has been done between a Saginaw, Michigan, jail project and a design for a new Vigo County jail.

Andre Kummerow asked Tuesday if the Vigo County commissioners had made further comparisons of the two projects.

Critics of a jail proposed for 500 W. Honey Creek Drive argue the county can save millions by building on the current city/county government campus off First and Cherry Streets in Terre Haute. To date, though, the county has said that campus offers insufficient space for a modern jail design that suits Vigo County’s needs.

Commissioners President Brad Anderson said the county has the Michigan jail plans and has sent a comparison to members of the Vigo County Council. Kummerow said the public has not seen that comparison.

County Attorney Michael Wright, after the meeting, provided a copy of the comparison sent to the County Council. Kummerow admitted he has seen the comparison, but said he doesn’t think it goes far enough.

”I wish we would do a little more diligent comparison of two jails that have $30 million to $35 million difference,” he said after the meeting. “This is nothing but numbers and to me this is not a real comparison of saving $35 million. We are talking about some square foot difference. Some of these things can be rectified ... and still fit it on the existing (Vigo County jail) site,” Kummerow said.

During the meeting, Anderson said the county’s current jail site would require construction of a parking garage and said the county does not own property next to the current jail for any expansion. Additionally, Anderson said Art Spaces has a state grant for a project that goes through the jail campus site sought by Kummerow.

Kummerow disagreed, saying a parking garage is not needed.

”We don’t like the Michigan design,” Anderson countered.

The memo to the County Council includes notes from Vigo County Councilwoman Lisa Spence-Bunnett made from comments from Brian Koositra of Garmong Construction Services.

Some comparisons in the memo shows Vigo County with a 10,000-square-foot dedicated mechanical space, while no such space is designed for the Michigan project. Vigo County’s project has a proposed 8,800-square-foot sally port, compared to a 2,000-square-foot sally port for the Michigan project.

Also, Vigo County’s sheriff’s department would be housed in a 16,000-square-foot area, compared to a 9,000-square-foot area in Michigan. And a training area in the Vigo County jail design is 2,100 square feet, compared to 600 square feet in the Michigan project.

Recreation space in the Michigan jail plan is 2,000 square feet, while Vigo County’s is 2,200 square feet. Vigo County’s jail kitchen, designed to accommodate any future expansion, is 4,200 square feet, compared to 2,600 square feet in the Michigan jail project.

For the site on Honey Creek Driver, the county is working on a jail design that includes 501 beds and 140,000 square feet. The county’s consultants estimate a $60 million construction cost requiring an annual debt service of more than $5.62 million.

In a federal class-action lawsuit, the county has conceded the existence of unconstitutional conditions at its current jail. An Indianapolis-based federal judge is monitoring the county’s progress on a new jail, with the county submitting monthly reports to the court.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.