Warren to revisit old jail project

FRONT ROYAL – A scaled-back plan to renovate Warren County’s old jail should cut costs significantly, officials say.

When the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on U.S. 340-522 opened in June, the Sheriff’s Office vacated the local jail next to the courthouse. Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron and other officials explored ways to reuse the old jail as an area for holding prisoners as they wait to appear in court.

County officials last year estimated that renovating the former jail and its recreation area into holding cells would cost approximately $200,000. However, bids came in last fall at much higher than expected. Howard Shockey & Sons Inc. submitted the official low bid of $500,618.

Architect Fred Andreae presented a plan to the county’s Building Committee meeting Monday that could bring the cost down closer to $100,000. The county will need to advertise the project again.

The new design eliminates the recreation area from the picture. Instead, the Sheriff’s Office would use the existing cells on the first floor. The new kitchen near the exercise yard would be turned into an admitting area, Andreae explained. The other kitchen area could be used as a break room. A bathroom also would be renovated.

“All the other stuff we’ve pretty much abandoned, I guess,” Andreae said.

The plan calls for the creation of an alcove from the kitchen to the jail cells that would allow for any future changes to the holding area, Andreae added. The county will need to replace several doors.

McEathron said he hopes to use as much of the downstairs space as possible. The sheriff pointed out that in some cases deputies might need to split up inmates who don’t get along, possibly testifying against each other. Deputies also can use an isolation cell, he noted.

“It’s not an ideal situation but we can make do with what we have currently,” McEathron said.

The plan also doesn’t include a drive-up entrance, known as a sallyport, for the prisoner transport vans.

Since the committee’s last meeting, Andreae and county officials looked at the reasons for the high bids. Too many unknowns in the kitchen and other areas remained, contractors had said. Workers for the Parks and Recreation Department then went in and removed drywall and electrical systems from the kitchen, essentially gutting the areas slated for renovation and reuse, McEathron and Andreae said.

“They can see what they’re looking at now,” the sheriff said. “They’re not guessing at what’s behind the drywall.”

This should help reduce the cost when the county puts the project out to bid again, Andreae said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com