Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

New site for the jail?

County looking at land near the former MHI
Sep 20, 2017
Photo by: Brooks Taylor Henry County supervisors are eyeing a 4-6 acre tract of land near the former Mental Health Institute as the site for the new county law enforcement center/jail. The land currently is owned by the state, but there have been recent indications the state may be willing to sell the land.

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News


A new site has emerged as the favorite among county officials for construction of the county law center/jail.

Following a recent meeting between county and city representatives with state officials, locals have learned that the state may be willing to sell from 3.9 to 6 acres of land near the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility.

The land is located northwest of the tennis court behind one of the former Mental Health Institute buildings. The county could know as early as mid-October on whether the land can be purchased.

Currently, the proposed jail site is on county-owned land near the Christamore House. However, supervisors have never been that enamored with the location because a considerable amount of excavation work would be needed, and the site is also subject to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules and regulations because of its proximity to the Mt. Pleasant Municipal Airport.

In the language on the ballot for the Aug. 1 election in which the measure passed with 85 percent approval, no specific location was listed.

The new site was briefly discussed during Tuesday morning’s supervisor meeting in which the board reviewed proposals from architects for the project with John Hanson, president of Midwest Construction of Houghton, the construction manager for the project.

Mt. Pleasant Mayor Steven Brimhall, who attended the aforementioned meeting between county, city and state officials, said he left the meeting optimistic. “One state official made it sound like his board would sign off on it.”

Asked his opinion of the site by supervisors, Hanson said, “It is my top site until proven differently.”

He said the county could realize big savings if the site can be attained. “You won’t have to extend water, sewer or electrical lines which would be a savings of $300,000 to $400,000,” Hanson said. “Also, the site preparation work would be minimal.”

Access to the county law enforcement complex would be from Grand Avenue, if the land is obtained.

Proposals were received from four architectural firms and the supervisors will interview the three finalists during a special meeting Wednesday, Sept. 27. The three firms receiving interviews are Design Alliance of Waukee, Rick Wiedner of Bennington, Neb., and Shive-Hattery Architects and Engineers from Des Moines. The firm not making the cut was Prochaska & Associates of Omaha, Neb., who compiled the needs assessment and facilities study for the project.

Supervisors picked the three firms for basically three reasons — cost, experience in jail products in Iowa and working with a construction manager, namely Hanson’s firm.

Henry County Sheriff Rich McNamee favored Wiedner and said he thought interviews were a waste of time.

“I have toured Wiedner’s jails and am very impressed with them. I think Rick’s work is darn good, but if you want to interview firms, that’s your choice,” McNamee said. “Also, Wiedner has worked with John in the past and that’s a big plus. It is all about perspective, and I thought Rick (Wiedner) stood out.”

All three supervisors, however, said they favored interviews.

Wiedner was the most reasonable at 5.8 percent of the cost, or $465,000, based on an $8 million project. He said if the cost of the project decreases, so will his fee.

Design Alliance was the only other architect submitting a set percentage in its fee calculations. The Waukee company said it would charge 6.8 percent of the project cost, or $544,000 (all fees were based on construction costs of $8 million). Shive-Hattery’s fee ranged from 5.85-6.34 percent, and Prochaska submitted a fee of 6-8 percent.

Hanson said he was disappointed more firms did not list a fixed fee. “There is a broad range on some of these fees and at some point, you need a fixed fee.”

The county, Hanson suggested, may want to consider a larger jail. “My fee is based on 55 beds. I was a little surprised you went with 44 beds. The last thing you want to do is use taxpayer money and go too small, and then have to go back to the taxpayers for more money.”

McNamee concurred, noting jail population was at 35 Monday and 31 on Tuesday.

Wiedner has worked on about 25 jail projects, Hanson said. “The most important thing is that you have to determine who will work best with the board.”

The interviews will be at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27.


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