Source: Fritz Klug
Department: Kalamazoo Gazette
KALAMAZOO, MI - The cells are in. The building shell is up. And inside the Kalamazoo County Jail expansion, workers are busy welding, painting, installing windows and completing other work on the 75,000-square-foot facility.
Just over a year after ground was broken, an expansion of the county lockup is 70 to 75 percent complete, according to Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller. The $23-million project is on budget and on schedule for completion in May 2013, the sheriff said during a tour last week.
The facility is designed to not only provide more cells, but to create efficiencies that the original jail, built in 1971, lacks.
The jail is chronically overcrowded. This past Monday, for example, Fuller said there were more than 450 people locked up in the county jail, which has a rated capacity of 327 inmates. An average of 100 inmates a day are housed in jails outside of Kalamazoo County due to space limitations, creating additional costs for the county to rent jail cells and transport prisoners.
When the original jail on Lamont Street was built, police and public safety departments in Portage and Kalamazoo had their own lockups, but those have since closed, putting more demand on the county jail.
Fuller said the expansion will make the county jail more efficient and save money in many ways, including:
The sheriff's office will save thousands of dollars a day by cutting the amount of staff time, fuel and other resources spent transporting inmates to hospitals, courthouses and within the facility, Fuller said.
In November, the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners authorized the administration to explore construction of another building near the jail to house video visitation, the Office of Community Corrections and the Office of Adult Probation. If ultimately approved by the county board, the new building, projected to cost $2 million to $2.5 million, could be operational by August or September 2013, officials say.
In the meantime, Fuller said he is looking to partner with an organization in the community to house video visitation while a new building is constructed.
When construction on the jail expansion is completed, different parts of the facility will be brought online at different times. First, the kitchen will open, followed by other parts of the jail before inmates are brought in, the sheriff said.
Fuller said he'd like to have a group like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts spend a night in the new portion of the jail before inmates are moved in, in order to help ensure that all the utilities work and to help staff identify any other problems.
There are other details to solidify, including names. Fuller said he wants to name the new ring road around the facility "Eric Zapata Way" in honor of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2011.
Fuller said he wants to name the facility after Sheriff Benjamin Franklin Orcutt, who was killed during a jail break in 1867 and is the only other law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty in Kalamazoo County. The county board will ultimately approve the building's name.
The jail expansion, which had been discussed for decades, was approved by the county board in 2011, and ground was broken that November. It is being funded with money the county set aside over a period of years.
KALAMAZOO GAZETTE COPYRIGHT 2012