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$30M Jail Takes Shape in Mississippi

After years of discussions and a shuffling of architectural firms, work is finally under way on the nearly $30 million Jackson County Adult Detention Center.

Mon June 23, 2014 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

After years of discussions and a shuffling of architectural firms, work is finally under way on the nearly $30 million Jackson County Adult Detention Center in Pascagoula, Miss. Total capacity for the 104,105 sq. ft. (9,671.6 sq m) jail will be 776 beds, compared to 427 beds in the current 30,611 sq. ft. (2,843.8 sq m) facility.

“The site is fairly compact, and there are a lot of activities proceeding simultaneously,” said Jeffrey May, operations manager of Michael Baker Corporation and program manager/project representative of Jackson County Board of Supervisors. “Right now, the contractor is installing 14 inch diameter auger cast-in-place pilings. The auger cast pilings are approximately 60 feet long, and there are a total of 818 on the project.”

Caddell Construction Co., the general contractor, began its work in early 2014, with the project expected to be completed by late March, 2015. Primary tasks to date have included storm water infrastructure, clearing and grubbing and foundation construction.

“Site work and drilling of the auger cast piles is very time consuming and heavily dependent upon good weather,” May said. “A total of 334 piles have to be installed below grade, then building foundations and perimeter walls formed and placed, then the building pad has to be back filled and brought up to finish grade before the next 484 piles are installed and the interior grade beams placed.

“As for site work, there will be over 340,000 cubic yards of engineered fill brought in for the back filling of the building pad once the perimeter walls are placed and cured. The 818 auger cast piles will take over 3,000 cubic yards of grout fill. The site did not require undercutting, but did require moderately deep foundation excavations for the Class B piles and wall/perimeter foundations. Over 2,700 cubic yards of soil has been removed for the foundations and pile caps/grade beams.”

The property where the construction is taking place was clear, with the exception of an asphalt parking lot approximately 360 x 185 ft. (109 x 56 m) Existing underground piping also had to be removed. Soggy weather has already had an impact on construction.

“We have had significant amounts of rain since the project began,” May said. “As of the end of March, there have been 29 weather delay days.”

Equipment on the job includes skid steer loaders, wheel loaders, track loaders, backhoes, excavators, mini-excavators, SkyTrak forklifts, sweepers, dozers and dump trucks. The construction process is very detailed and methodical, with little room for error.

“The contractor has not hit any underground objects with the auger equipment,” May said. “They have been extremely careful in identifying existing underground piping, and properly removing prior to pile installation operations.

“Erosion control for this project has been paramount, and best management practices have been monitored daily,” May said. “Silt fencing, wattles and rock check dams are being utilized to control runoff and contain migrating silt.”

As for the individual jail cells that will be placed, they are complete, factory-built and furnished assembly, suitable for shipping and site installation as a unified product.

“The new jail will consist of three pods with a separate administrative section,” said Jackson County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Bates, a former jail warden who was involved with the project from its inception. “Each of the pods will have a ground floor and a mezzanine floor. The new facility will also offer locking cells for all of the inmates, with the exception of the classification and inmate worker day rooms, which will be dormitory style. The extra day rooms will allow inmates to be better classified, which will provide a safer environment for staff and inmates alike. As a bonus, the new jail can be expanded with the addition of a fourth pod.”

The current jail was built in 1978 to house 79 inmates. Officials have added on to it twice to hold more beds, but the kitchen and laundry facilities still support the original capacity.

“Some of the parts for the doors aren’t even made anymore, which creates challenges for our maintenance crew,” said Bates. “We’re so lacking in space for support personnel that we utilize three separate outbuildings for staff members because there’s simply no room. We have simply outgrown the current facility.”

The new lockup is adjacent to the current jail at the corner of Telephone Road and Fair Street in downtown Pascagoula. A portion of the old jail might be used for archives and evidence storage once the new building is finished.

“It’s been a long, difficult journey that, many times, left us feeling it may never actually happen,” Bates said. “We’ve had more meetings with architects, construction contractors and vendors than I can count. We’ve viewed other jails and manufacturing plants to ensure we are getting the best product we can for the money. We’ve looked at and compared this project from every angle.

“The footprint of the site was a challenge. We looked at moving the jail to another site, but there were legal and logistical obstacles that made this impossible, so the current site was where it had to go. We studied many plans and types of jails that were offered and this plan offered us the best of everything. It gives us the capacity we need for future growth on this site, and it fit the budget.”

From a safety standpoint, the new jail offers better options.

“We can lock all the inmates in cells at night or whenever else we need to,” Bates said. “That’s something we haven’t been able to do in years. We’ll have enough housing areas to properly classify inmates, which will keep the potential for a violent confrontation to a minimum. The inmates will be under constant watch by staff members, not just by video cameras. Ultimately, it will provide a platform for a safe, secure and controllable environment for staff and inmates.”

Because Jackson County is situated on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, officials are in hurricane preparation mode from the beginning of June through the end of November. For that reason, the detention center is being built with modular metal, making it capable of withstanding winds of up to 150 mi. per hour.

“We evacuated the inmates in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan struck Pensacola, Florida,” said Bates. “That was an absolute logistical nightmare, and we decided that the ability to shelter in place was a must for the future. After Hurricane Katrina, the flood zones were re-evaluated and found to be lacking. The new jail will be built to the most recent codes.”

“The overall vision for this project really encompasses the many reasons why the facility, after it is constructed, will be safe, yet cost-effective,” said Christopher Lunsford, architect of Burk-Kleinpeter-Lunsford Engineers/Architect, PLLC. “The adult detention center has definitely required a higher level of commitment to the means by which building systems are secured. Specifically, in the area of electronic security, multiple building systems must be tediously coordinated so the facility can be managed efficiently and effectively.

“In the event of extreme weather, the cells within the facility will be capable of sheltering the inmates in place. The floor of the facility will be elevated above the base flood elevation. When the facility opens next year, the jail staff will have access to the latest security electronics, capable of controlling the flow of water to an individual fixture in a cell with the tap of a touchscreen.”

After two design firms were fired, Lunsford had to work with plans already drafted.

“I did inherit the design for the facility, but I reviewed the entire set of documents and incorporated my own creative touches where I felt safety or construct-ability needed to be addressed. The biggest challenge for me in inheriting the designs that were already in place really only involved me keeping the mindset that I needed to be as effective and efficient as possible, so as to prepare the documents to be competitively re-bid within the owner’s time frame.”

Bates said, “We were thrilled to see the first equipment finally arrive on site and start turning the dirt after so many years of waiting. They’ve only been working since the middle of January, so right now there is not a lot to see because most of the work is below the surface with the drilling and pouring of the auger cast pilings. It will really get exciting when the structure itself starts to go up.”

As for the eventual transfer of inmates, the physical move shouldn’t be a major obstacle, because the old facility and new facility are close in proximity. The biggest challenge will be for the staff to educate the inmates in all of the new procedures they will have to learn.

“The daily activities they have come to know will change drastically,” said Bates. “Almost everything they do, from where they shower, to how visitation is conducted, to how they view the inmate handbook will change. Those things will take some getting used to for them, but they will adapt.”

The county’s adult detention center houses a combination of violent and non-violent offenders for both men and women. The facility is under the authority of County Sheriff Charles Britt, but is funded and maintained by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors. Board president, Troy Ross, said the new jail is needed because the existing structure is old and undersized.

“Our new facility will meet the needs of our county for decades, and will provide a safer, more secure environment for our law enforcement personnel who operate it,” said Ross. “This project has been ongoing for over 15 years, so it’s quite an accomplishment to see progress being made and have a structure beginning to take shape on the property.

“During the process of designing this jail, the county has been able to improve its bond rating,” Ross remarked. “This resulted in nearly $200,000 in savings per year over the life of the debt, because we were not required to have a $2.3 million reserve. We also saw a savings of about $500,000 when we rebid the project this past year, so a jail that was on the path to being over $35 million with less occupancy and open dorm rooms ended up being $27.1 million, with dual occupancy lockable cells and the ability to expand to accommodate future needs. I’m glad to see this nearly two decade saga coming to an end, and that, even with all the problems, we were able to get a quality product.”

Four types of inmates are in custody at the current jail , including individuals recently arrested and awaiting bond, those awaiting trial without bond, recently convicted awaiting transfer to a state facility and parole violators. For law enforcement officials, the ongoing construction marks a new beginning.

“We are most excited to finally have a modern facility that functions as it should,” said Bates. “It’s being constructed to American Correctional Association standards, which will provide us with the opportunity to seek accreditation. My hope is that this facility serves as a safe and efficient environment for detention officers to perform their duties and that it outlasts us all. If the taxpayers and future staff don’t have to go through the process of building a new jail for another 35 years or hopefully more, then I think we will have done a good job in the end.”

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