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Consultant will help county craft jail plan





While several building and major renovation projects for Ellis County loom on the horizon, county commissioners took steps to move forward, for now, with only one at their regular meeting Monday evening.

The agenda included consideration of jail consultant proposals along with consideration of an Emergency Medical Services/Rural Fire Department building, and renovations of both the Commerce Bank building and the Ellis County Courthouse.

The lone architectural proposal accepted was for a $25,000 bid from consultant Carter Goble Lee to conduct a study of the Ellis County jail and justice system to determine the extent of a future project.

Two jail consultant firms have appeared before commissioners to present their qualifications in the past month. Jail consultant Bill Garnos bid the project at $15,075. However, commissioners agreed CGL appeared to have more commitment to selling the project to Ellis County voters.

"I think one of the things I saw as a strength from the gentleman from Carter Goble Lee was their enthusiasm to come out and put the act together for us to sell it," said Commission Chairman Swede Holmgren.

Sheriff Ed Harbin said inmate numbers have been climbing all year. With a capacity of 30 inmates, 64 were held last week. The majority were transported to out-of-town facilities.

County Administrator Greg Sund said an important part of the study will be determining whether Ellis County is dealing with an anomaly in inmate population, as national averages for inmate population are decreasing, and the Ellis County population overall isn't increasing at a high rate.

Harbin pointed out there might be other factors involved in the increase in inmates, such as increase in visitors to the county and non-permanent residents.

"One thing you have to keep in mind is we have two major highways where people travel through," Harbin told commissioners. "And we're inviting people to come and they spend the night and shop and go to sporting events ... go to school here."

Some efforts already are under way in the county to decrease the inmate population. Northwest Kansas Community Corrections currently oversees a bracelet program for felons. Harbin said a recent program was launched for those committing misdemeanors. Work and school release programs also are available in instances in which the offender qualifies.

Commissioners tabled other architect proposals pending the receipt of more information, including one for the interior remodel of the Commerce Bank building to accommodate administrative offices.

Spangenberg Phillips Tice Architecture estimated a $550,000 cost for remodeling the Commerce Bank building along with an 8.5 percent architectural fee. Spangenberg also estimated construction of an EMS/Rural Fire building at $2.2 million, with a $143,000 architectural fee.

In addition, Treanor Architects submitted a bid to prepare a concept design and other services in conjunction with a remodel of the Ellis County Courthouse at a cost of $14,720.