Renovation of jail called cheaper than buying modular unit

June 21, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll County Sheriff John H. Brown, who has opposed a modular addition to the Carroll County Detention Center since it was proposed last year, said he has found a cheaper way to make room for more inmates.

He said the newly hired warden has suggested the county renovate part of the existing jail instead of buying a modular unit to install next to the detention center at 100 N. Court St.

Warden Mason W. Waters, who began work June 2, said the county could save as much as $200,000 by renovating a staff training room instead of buying a modular unit.

The commissioners said yesterday that they are considering the idea.

The commissioners agreed in September to buy a modular unit to hold 24 prisoners as a temporary solution to the jail's crowding problems.

Sheriff Brown has said a modular -- a prebuilt, portable unit -- would not be as secure as a brick-and-mortar addition. He said he probably would house work-release inmates in the portable unit.

The sheriff had asked for an 80-bed addition, but bids came in $1 million higher than expected. Bids for the addition ranged from $3 million to $3.5 million.

The 120-bed jail has housed as many as 150 prisoners, Sheriff Brown said yesterday.

Last month, the county received proposals from three companies interested in the modular project, said Tom Rio, chief of the county Bureau of Building Construction. The proposals expire in mid-July.

A three-member staff committee reviewed the proposals and recommended that Space Masters Inc., a Florida company, be awarded the project, Mr. Rio said. He would not say how much Space Masters bid.

Last year, other companies that make modular jail cells estimated the cost would be $200,000 to $350,000.

Mr. Rio said an architect and engineer toured the county jail yesterday to determine whether the warden's idea is "doable and reasonable."

"It appears as though it might be," he said.

But Mr. Rio said Mr. Waters may have overestimated the cost difference; the savings more likely would be around $175,000, he said.

Mr. Waters, who said he worked with construction projects during a 20-year career with the Maryland Division of Correction, said he estimated that the renovation work would cost $30,000 to $40,000.

The renovation would allow the county to use the jail more efficiently, said Sheriff Brown, who is running for a second term. "There's a lot of wasted space in here," he said.

The warden proposed renovating a ground-floor training room into a housing area for work-release inmates. Training could be conducted in a multipurpose room, the sheriff said.

The plan also includes shifting other office areas.

Renovating the existing jail instead of adding a modular unit also would mean the county wouldn't have to hire as many new deputies, Mr. Waters said.

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