GALLIPOLIS — Gallia Commissioners met with DLZ, a construction, engineering and architecture firm, Thursday, to discuss ongoing concerns and desires with an anticipated new jail facility’s construction for the county.
“This is where we really start to identify the spaces that are going into the facility, the size of them and how many,” said DLZ Principal Architect Eric Ratts. “From that, I’m helping you write the recipe for what we’re going to build or design here eventually…These steps we’re going through in the next few weeks will make a monumental difference. The sheriff and the chief are the ones that got to make it work when they move into it, but a big part of making that work is taking the time in identifying these different things…It’s important to go through some of the stats of understanding what at the state level they have to do to help you and what you have to provide to them and we’ll dig into some of the programming that will go on into the project.”
Of key topics discussed, Ratts said it was important to understand what uses the structure would serve, how it would meet Ohio Bureau of Adult Detention standards, what inmate population trends were like across Ohio and the country, style of housing in the jail, staff requirements and the actual site the facility would sit on.
Gallia Commissioners inquired most about what was called an indirect podular remote design, similar to one situated in Fairfield County that reportedly houses around 120 inmate beds. Such a facility has a central monitoring security and control station to cut down on correction officer numbers and to allow for a maximum view of all inmate areas. Inmate areas circle the station, which would control all cell locks. Examples of holding areas displayed during the meeting included a ground floor series of cells along with an upper floor mezzanine area with more cells stacked atop the first. The central security station would monitor both sets of cells. The commissioners will need to consider how many cells the proposed facility will need, whether they are single, double or quad units along with whether they are dormitory style or another style of unit. Commissioners in the past have said they are considering between 100 to 120 beds at the proposed Gallia Jail.
Commissioners have said they are budgeting roughly $10 million for the facility and looking at a variety of options to finance it. Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin and Gallia Chief of Deputies Troy Johnson said ideally the jail would include spaces for those reporting to Gallia’s Work Release program. Johnson suggested that kitchen facilities, offices and utility setups be placed in a basement and allow for the containment facilities to sit atop them in what may become a two-story structure with a basement.
The county purchased a parking lot from the City of Gallipolis earlier in the year along Second Avenue, next to the Second Avenue Gallia Courthouse parking lot, for $264,000 along with a plot of land from the French Art Colony for $30,000 which holds a small garage. The county also purchased the old law office of Bill Conley next to the old city parking lot for $350,000. Commissioners have heavily discussed utilizing this area, along with part of the Gallia Courthouse parking lot along First Avenue, as the new jail build site. Commissioners also discussed potentially connecting the new facility to the courthouse with a walkway for security measures and to cut down on inmate transportation costs. The target square footage for the new jail facility is over 59,500 square feet utilizing rough estimates from the Gallia Auditor’s webpage mapping software.
“We are constantly facing a battle in our (corrections system),” Champlin previously said in March. “We are daily running transports all over the state of Ohio as far away as Van Wert County just to accommodate our needs of housing prisoners. Since 2016, we’ve seen a big increase in our daily average population. In 2018, our daily average population was around 86 (inmates) per day. The vast majority of those we’re having to outsource (to corrections facilities out of county)…The criminal element has changed over the last 70 years and the type of prisoner we’re holding.”
Commissioners have raised issue with the county’s aging 70-year-old jail in the courthouse basement as a safety concern with overcrowding inmate populations tied to the opioid epidemic.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.