Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center

Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center, in Sioux City, pictured in 2015.

SIOUX CITY | A Woodbury County committee looking into changes at the downtown jail building on Thursday recommended the county supervisors begin with remodeling the inmate intake section first, deleting an elevator project to save $1 million and developing a long-term plan for the rest of the project.

The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors will take up the proposal at a board meeting in March. It will be their next look in the long process to add more jail cells and modernize the Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center, at 407 Seventh St.

In January, the supervisors heard from the Goldberg Group Architects consulting firm that improvements could cost $7 million or more.

But that proposal won't add the needed 30 jail cells, but rather more correctly is a modernization project, supervisors Chairman Matthew Ung said. Since May 2016, two options to expand the jail have now been ruled out.

Woodbury County officials have sought to build new jail cells below the $1.2 million mark. Any spending above that level would require putting the issue up for a countywide vote.

Lawrence Goldberg, of Goldberg Group Architects in St. Joseph, Missouri, in January laid out a series of improvements, which he said would cost $7.1 million if pursued right away, but with a much higher inflationary cost of $12.6 million if they are pushed to 2023. Those likely will be pursued in a series of $1.1 million yearly projects to avoid bond-issue votes.

All the committee members on Thursday said they were mindful of having a fix that addressed needs in a cost-effective manner and would not raise property taxes on county residents. A good chunk of the meeting involved which piece would be recommended to go first among the potential upcoming series of projects.

"You are not trying to design Woodbury County a Taj Mahal," Goldberg said.

Dropping the piece that would have an elevator leading from the main floor to the basement will cut the proposal from $7 million to $6 million.

The intake unit and new holding cells would be on the first floor, which could hold up to 30 people as they first are brought into the jail. That intake place could also have video arraignment rooms.

Sheriff's Office Maj. Greg Stallman said it is imperative that phases ultimately approved include a minimum security housing upgrade and changes to 13 blocks holding various jail cells for varying populations on the second floor. Many need new walls and showers.

 "I see positives in this. It is something we need to do, it is obvious, because we do have issues that need to be corrected," Sheriff Dave Drew said.

Once the county supervisors approve pieces of the project, an architect will design plans, a timeline will be devised and the supervisors will tap money from their annual Capital Improvement Plan borrowing for larger projects. Goldberg cautioned that delays in spreading the project out will "substantially raise" the cost, since the metal and steel industry is amid huge cost spikes.

"They can charge what they want...Your best deal is to get it done front-loaded, as much as possible," Goldberg said.

"Every year you wait, it costs more," said another consultant, Shane Albrecht, of The Baker Group.

Other pieces that could follow include:

-- A new jail booking room on the second floor. Inmates would be taken there for booking, in a new workflow in the jail, which county officials said they liked.

-- A new medical area layout on the second floor, to give better care.

-- Changes to 13 blocks holding various jail cells for varying populations on the second floor. Many would need new walls and showers.

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