DLZ gets initial nod from Monroe County for new jail design, vote 2 weeks away

The final decision has not been made, but DLZ is likely to be the firm that Monroe County uses to master plan and design a new jail facility.

At a Wednesday morning work session, Monroe County commissioners received a brief report from a committee that they created to review three responses to a request for qualifications (RFQ), to master plan and design  a new jail.

DLZ was the company recommended by the committee. The other two responses came from Elavatus and RQRAW.

Monroe County director of facilities Richard Crider delivered the committee’s recommendation to the commissioners. About the three companies who responded, Crider said, “They are all very capable and proficient in what they do. And I believe we all felt like any one of them could provide a facility that meets our needs.”

But it was DLZ that got the committee’s nod: “One firm stood out above the rest and that was DLZ.” Crider added, “DLZ was the unanimous decision of the committee.”

Joining Crider on the RFQ review committee were: David Gardner, ASI Facilities Services contractor; Lee Baker, county attorney; Kyle Gibbons, jail commander; Matt Demmings, assistant jail commander; and Angie Purdie, administrator for the commissioners.

The commissioners do not have a regular meeting scheduled for next week, on March 15. The vote on the choice of DLZ is set for two weeks from now, on March 22.

Crider indicated that the committee used a scoring rubric, and that DLZ scored the highest.

On Wednesday, commissioners did not press Crider on the details of the selection criteria, but commissioner Julie Thomas said, “I think the public may be curious about what the criteria were and how this was done.”

Thomas noted that commissioners were not a part of the committee that reviewed the responses to the RFQ. Thomas indicated that she wanted the committee to address the selection criteria, at some point before a vote is taken.

The scope of the RFQ included a master plan and construction design for the initial use of a new jail facility, including design and construction plans for “an innovative, treatment based, outcomes-focused jail, sheriff’s department, and adequate court space for the efficient use for criminal courts.”

The RFQ was issued by Monroe County in late October of 2022, when the hope was to build a new jail on an 87-acre parcel in the southeast corner of the city of Bloomington.

But in December, Bloomington’s city council denied a rezone request, which would have been required in order to build a jail there.

After Wednesday’s work session, The B Square asked about the idea that it’s a little bit cart-before-the-horse to settle on a design firm for the new jail facility, when the site selection is still not settled.

County attorney Jeff Cockerill responded by saying that right now there are a lot of possible sites that people are suggesting—not all of them as large as the 25 acres that the county has been using as a rough estimate of the required land area.

The 25-acre estimate included the concept of a “campus” for the jail. Cockerill said that part of DLZ’s work will include evaluating possible sites, to provide an expert opinion on what parts of a new facility could be constructed at a particular location.

Cockerill added that DLZ could help analyze potential sites and give the county a neutral evaluation of the pros and cons for each site.

At the most recent meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC), circuit court judge Catherine Stafford said she’d used a mini-CAD program to come up with a 9-acre estimate that would include: a single-story jail, with sheriff’s offices; a 3-4-story building for courts and clerks; a 3-4 story building for probation, public defenders, and prosecutor staff; an acre for green space; and an acre for parking.

But as Stafford herself put it at the meeting, she is not an architect.

Commissioner Julie Thomas stressed that the contract would not be for DLZ to go off and create a design. DLZ is also supposed to help Monroe County find the best site that it can for the new jail facility, Thomas said. Thomas mentioned the fact that whether a significant buffer is needed would depend in part on the chosen location for a new jail facility.

The conclusion that a new jail facility is needed for Monroe County is based on the work of two consultants,  who delivered two studies of Monroe County’s criminal justice system, which were delivered 20 months ago, in June 2021.

The RJS report  states: “The jail facility is incapable of consistently ensuring and sustaining constitutional levels of inmate care and custody.”

Related to the existing jail facility, on Wednesday, the commissioners approved a $6,365 contract with Harrell-Fish, Inc. to replace two non-functioning exhaust fans located on the justice building roof, which are supposed to help ventilate the jail.

Replacement of the roof fans was one of the projects that facilities director Crider described at an early February work session held by the commissioners, which fell after Monroe County sheriff Ruben Marté’s  slide deck presentation to the CJRC. The slides showed the bad conditions at the jail confronting Marté, when he took office this year.

In the last few weeks, commissioners have approved several items discussed at Crider’s presentation at the early-February work session.

Among those was a contract with Indy Wall Padding for $3,145 to repair the edges of the epoxy floors in 17 shower stalls at the jail. Another item approved by commissioners was a $3,420 contract with Riverway Plumbing to replace drain lines in two places where they were prone to clogging.

Also approved by the commissioners was a $11,800 with Steve’s Roofing to tear out an area of roofing material over the laundry room, increase the slope to avoid standing water, and repair the roof to fix leaks.

At a late February meeting, the county council approved a request from the sheriff’s office for some new account lines to pay for jail cleaning supplies and equipment for a total of around $80,000.

Expected to be on the agenda for the next meeting of the county council, on March 14, is the creation of a new  job at the jail, called “facility conservation coordinator.” The position will be responsible for cleaning the jail and supervising inmates to do cleaning work.


3 thoughts on “DLZ gets initial nod from Monroe County for new jail design, vote 2 weeks away

  1. the only decision to move forward on a new correctional facility is a committee that doesn’t involve any commissioners. Irony!!

    But they are the deciders!

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