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New county jail is on schedule work and cost-wise

Construction of Ogle County’s new jail, officially known as the Judicial Center Annex, is on schedule work-wise and cost-wise.

County board chairman Kim Gouker, of Byron, gave an update on the $23.5 million project to a group of about 20 people who attended Those Were the Days at the Oregon Depot on Saturday morning.

Heavy rain and wet conditions plagued construction at the beginning, he said.

“The ground-breaking [on April 10] was an omen,” Gouker joked. “I welcomed everyone to our mud-breaking.”

Some of the concrete poured early on had to be redone after water flowed underneath the gravel base. 

“We put in deeper fill as a result,” he said.

The project was first estimated at $25 to $28 million, and the first design from the architects for a three-story building put it at $30 million.

“I said no, that’s not going to work. I can’t take that back to the county board or to the public,” Gouker said.

As a result, the architects came up with a single-story design that brought the cost down considerably.

“I hope to end up in the $22 million range,” he said. 

The 41,700 square-foot facility will have 152 beds for male and female inmates.

Some single cells are included in the design, but most cells will house four or eight prisoners, Gouker said. A large dormitory cell will hold 40 beds.

Construction plans call for the walls and roof to be in place by winter so that crews can work on the inside during cold weather.

The project is expected to be completely in the fall of 2020 with inmates moved in the following spring, Gouker said.

The exterior will be designed to closely match the Judicial Center, to which it will be connected by a large sally port and enclosed passageway for the secure transfer of inmates into the jail, as well as from the jail to courtrooms.

The 100 block of South Sixth Street has been permanently closed to allow for that.

The new jail is the final step in the county’s 20-year capital plan, Gouker said.

“All this started in 1998 over parking around the courthouse,” he said.

The shortage of parking spaces led the county board to form a Long Range Planning Committee, and in 2000 the plan was approved to buy and remodel a building on Pines Road to house several departments that had been located in four buildings across Fifth Street from the courthouse.

The four buildings were then raised to make way for the judicial center completed in 2005. The courthouse was remodeled in 2010, and the new public safety building was built in 2014.

All of the building projects have been paid for with funds that come from the host fees paid by waste handling companies to dump at the landfills within the county.

Gouker said all that remains once the new jail is completed is to raze the old one, built in 1967 and attached to the courthouse.

“The final step is to remove that ugly jail,” he said. “Hopefully that will restore that beautiful 1891 courthouse.”