Allamakee County Public Safety Center Committee discusses suggested location, specifications for new jail, emergency services offices

by Bob Beach

The Allamakee County Public Safety Center Committee met Thursday evening, June 5 with Midwest Construction Consultants President John Hansen to discuss preliminary space requirements and possible building sites for a new jail and emergency services administrative offices.
Based on an inmate analysis previously reviewed by the Committee, Hansen calculated that a new facility to serve the current and future needs of the County would need to include 40 inmate beds and approximately 19,000 total square feet (about 140 feet by 140 feet). Hansen estimated the cost of such a facility would be around $4.6 million but said that the total square footage and the total cost would likely decrease as plans and specifications for the new facility become more detailed.
The Committee then reviewed two possible building sites for the new facility, including an addition to the existing courthouse in Waukon and the Makee Manor property. Sheriff Clark Mellick said that constructing the new facility as an addition to the courthouse would be "doable but very difficult," noting that almost all of the parking at the courthouse would need to be eliminated to accommodate the space requirements of the new facility. He added that acquiring additional property adjacent to the courthouse property would be both expensive and unpopular, especially if property condemnation (even voluntary condemnation) were to be used to acquire the additional real estate.
Hansen pointed out that the Makee Manor property is large enough to accommodate the proposed new facility. While he did not have a preliminary estimate for the demolition of the current building, Hansen said the cost may not exceed the cost of acquiring real estate elsewhere and that the Makee Manor building would need to be demolished at the County's cost at some point. Sheriff Mellick said that he does not see any significant disadvantages to locating the new facility six miles outside of Waukon.
It was suggested that the recently closed Town and County Trailer Court on the west side of Waukon be considered as a possible building site, but several members of the Committee expressed some concern about locating a jail so close to the schools located within just a couple blocks of that suggested location.
Hansen also asked the Committee to consider making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to send out a request for proposals to hire an architect to make preliminary plans for the new facility, plans which he estimated should cost from $8,000 to $12,000. The Committee agreed to make that recommendation at the June 17 meeting of the Board of Supervisors.
The Committee also tentatively scheduled visits to recently constructed jail facilities in other area counties for Saturday, June 21. The Committee's next formal meeting was tentatively scheduled for Thursday, July 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room at Farmers and Merchants Savings Bank in Waukon.