Jail expansion moves ahead

The Monroe County Jail expansion project is moving forward, with a bid letting for the 8,500 square foot addition expected by the end of this month.

Michael Schneider of Quadrant Design was on hand during Monday’s meeting of the Monroe County Board of Commissioners to provide details of final plans for the expansion.

These plans include 2,000 square feet for administrative offices and a training facility with an additional 5,000 square feet for unfinished basement storage space on the west end of the current facility.

The current design is similar to one proposed in October which will see the demolition of a storage shed on the northwest corner of the lot to accommodate additional floor space as well as an extension of the front end of the building to the south from the current street-facing entrance.

In addition to providing needed administrative space, the expansion will allow a more secure evidence storage location, which is currently located in the office’s break room area.

Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing said the expansion will be adequate for department needs for at least the next 20 years. 

Rohlfing explained the training room will be the “best part” of the expansion project due to continued state-mandated training requirements.

He also said the training room could be used to house training for other local law enforcement departments, especially those in counties to the south.

The plans also call for a new parking lot on the south side of East Third Street to replace parking which would be lost by the building expansion.

Monroe County Maintenance Supervisor Joe Lewis reported the county is currently in talks with Creative Touch Cosmetology School to obtain a utility easement for drainage at its adjacent parking lot, which would save the county about $35,000.

Lewis noted the county and cosmetology school have worked well together during the project so far, and the school would be able to use the parking lot after regular sheriff’s department office hours.  

Waterloo resident George Bieber spoke during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting.

He asked the board why this jail expansion was needed since the Monroe County Jail houses out-of-county inmates, calling the project a waste of taxpayer money.

Bieber also remarked the sheriff’s department would not need extra space if it would stop pressing “bogus” charges against county residents – a reference to a February incident during which Bieber was  detained and removed from the Monroe County Courthouse for allegedly assaulting a deputy prior to a county board meeting.

During his comments, Rohlfing pointed out the commissioners saw the limited amount of office space at the sheriff’s department facilities during a tour by commissioners last year.

“As you saw, (administrative personnel) are on top of each other,” Rohlfing said.

The project is expected to go to bid at the end of July, with construction beginning later this fall. 

While the cost of the project is uncertain due to increases in labor and construction costs, the proposal in October estimated the project cost at about $2.47 million. 

Also during the meeting, Monroe County Public Safety Director Kevin Scheibe updated commissioners about Friday’s storm that caused major damage in Columbia and northern Monroe County.

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In other county news, the Monroe County Health Department held two meet-and-greet sessions for new members of its emergency medical volunteer corps.

Health department administrator John Wagner told the Republic-Times the need for a volunteer corps became evident during the many COVID-related programs, including vaccine clinics.

Vickie Kehrer of the health department reported a “pretty good turnout” last week, with 33 people registering for the corps, and she is expecting more to join.

She explained having an official corps of volunteers will allow the health department to provide training and apply for state grants should any medical events occur in the area requiring use of the volunteers.

Residents interested in joining the corps can learn more at monroecountyhealth.org/medical-reserve-corps.

Kehrer also said the health department had “plenty” of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccines available free for county residents.

Tdap vaccines are available by appointment only by calling 618-939-8681 ext. 210.

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Scott Woodsmall

HTC web