By MIKE CORN
The details are still to be worked out, but temporary housing for some Ellis County Jail inmates has been found -- in Trego County.
Ellis County will use its jailers to supervise the inmates, a mix of people who are awaiting hearings in Ellis County District Court and those who aren't being accepted -- for various reasons -- for routine housing in outlying jails.
The arrangement is all part of an ongoing effort to find housing for jail inmates while contractors gut and expand the number of cells available to house prisoners on the second floor of the Law Enforcement Center.
The arrangement was announced Monday by Ellis County Commission Chairwoman Barb Wasinger as commissioners started discussing signing a $7.1 million construction contract with MW Builders, an Overland Park-based construction firm.
The courthouse-LEC project hit a roadblock last week when Ellis County Sheriff Ed Harbin objected to the idea of using a "plywood jail" as temporary housing for a portion of Ellis County's prisoners.
Instead, Harbin and Ellis County Undersheriff Bruce Hertel recommended the use of jail pods to provide secure housing. The cost, however, likely would have been staggering.
It was at a subsequent -- and private -- meeting, however, when the idea of using the Trego County Jail and perhaps the former juvenile detention center for temporary housing first surfaced.
After Monday's commission meeting, Wasinger said she was unsure who suggested Trego County, but said Harbin stepped out of the meeting, returning later to announce it was a possible solution.
"We came up with a pretty good solution," Wasinger said at Monday's commission meeting. "They will be based in Trego County."
The catch is Ellis County will provide its jailers to supervise the inmates.
The Trego County Jail has space to hold as many as 19 inmates, but doesn't have jailers, relying instead on deputies or dispatchers to monitor prisoners.
Inmates in excess of the capacity of Trego County facilities will still be housed in outlying jails, such as in Rooks and Ford counties.
Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund said inmates can be housed in some areas of the juvenile detention center, but said some repairs might have to be made given it's been four years since the center has been used.
As a result, he said, the only inmates to be housed at the N.E.W. building -- half of which will be used to house police, sheriff, courts and the county attorney's office -- will only have holding cells for prisoners being processed.
Holding cells are slated to be installed inside the N.E.W. building.
That idea drew a strong rebuke from Commissioner Swede Holmgren, who complained that was the first he'd heard of any cell inside the building.
"Someone needs to keep the other commissioners informed," he told Sund. "This is the first time I've heard anything about the N.E.W. building.
"You will not do that again."
Holmgren, however, went on to praise the idea of housing inmates in Trego County, rather than sending deputies to out-of-the-way places to transfer inmates.
After the meeting, Sund said details about the housing agreement are still being worked out.
"Now, it's a matter of working out legal agreements," he said.