Jail expansion plans discussed

Pictured is an architect’s rendering of a preliminary plan for expansion of the Monroe County Jail, which was discussed at Monday’s county board meeting. 

A $14 million Monroe County Jail expansion was chief among items related to the sheriff’s department discussed at Monday’s meeting of the Monroe County Board.

Mike Schneider of Quadrant Design in Waterloo, with county maintenance supervisor Joe Lewis, sat down with Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing to discuss plans to remodel and enlarge the aging jail facility at 225 E. Third Street in Waterloo.  

The current jail was placed in use in 1984 and needs substantial repair and upgrading to meet expanding requirements, Rohlfing said, adding that previous sheriff Dan Kelley had raised the idea of expanding the jail in 2010.  

Rohlfing said that in addition to maintenance issues, the jail population has increased steadily over the past 10 years along with the county’s population and crimes committed by people from outside the area. 

“And those numbers are not declining,” he said.  

The average daily population of male prisoners has risen from 17 to 24 in that time while five females are now locked up on an average day, while there were often none confined.  

When the jail was built, Rohlfing said there were very few female prisoners and it was not designed to accommodate them easily. Now when there are large numbers of females – there have been as many as 14 recently – they must be accommodated by placing some in what normally serves as a recreation room for well-behaving prisoners or in other areas.

This, in turn, can raise tensions in the male population, Rohlfing assessed.

In addition, as was pointed out by Lewis, key items such as electronic switch cell locks were manufactured by a company that has since gone out of business. 

“We were able to obtain 15 for maintenance use, but when they are gone, there are no more,” Lewis said.  

There are also deterioration issues with jail plumbing, it was disclosed.

The expansion plan being discussed would convert the entire existing male wing of 22 cells into a female wing of 17 cells and a separate day-use area to accommodate up to 34 females. The new all-male area would house 38 cells with 76 beds and include the existing day use area.  

Rohlfing noted calls for service for all police departments in Monroe County are increasing, which also adds to jail population.  

The proposal being examined would add a second story to part of the existing structure as well as a food service area to feed prisoners and save operating expenses.

Empty cells would still be made available to house non-violent federal prisoners and gain income from that practice, Rohlfing said.

An early estimate for the cost of both adding facilities and remodeling the existing structure comes to about $14 million. 

The commissioners noted such a development would require voter support and directed Rohlfing to continue to research requirements and future projections and to keep them engaged in the discussion.  

Also at the meeting, Monroe County Sheriff’s Department correction officer Steven Marquardt was honored for his swift action in saving a hospitalized female inmate’s life.  

On Nov. 9, Marquardt was monitoring the woman, who had been transported for medical reasons, when he heard her tell a doctor she wanted to commit suicide. When she said she needed to use the restroom, Marquardt attempted to keep a conversation going to monitor her.  

She replied but then failed to respond, so he entered the restroom and found her hanging from the door hook by monitor cords wrapped around her neck.  

Marquardt noted she was unresponsive, so he swiftly removed her from the hook and placed her on a hospital bed. He called medical help, which arrived in seconds to revive her.

Rohlfing’s congratulatory award commended Marquardt’s vigilance and professionalism for saving the inmate’s life.

 Rohlfing also used Monday’s meeting to promote two men. Corrections officer Kyle Koester was advanced to sergeant of jail operations and deputy Justin Biggs was elevated to sergeant of investigations.

In other news from the meeting, Monroe County Building Inspector and Zoning Administrator Chris Voelker updated commissioners on changes being worked on to restructure the solar energy and wind energy conversion ordinances.  Both electrical generation issues have come up as different parties seek to save energy costs and generate so-called “green energy.”  

Voelker noted that 41 solar-to-electricity conversion projects are currently under way or have been completed in the county this year.

Measures being discussed include ways to minimize impacts on citizens from windmill and solar energy generation equipment installation work, and to limit negative impacts on natural areas such as cave-karst formations as well as on wildlife such as bats and birds. Impacts on neighboring property are being regulated as well. 

Work to refine the resolutions continues and it is anticipated they will be approved at a future meeting.

Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation Center Administrator Brian Koontz said new family meeting room is working well. It enables families and residents to meet while separated only by a large sheet of plexiglass in a safe, new way that is partly substituting for being unable to be in direct contact.

He also told how staff members are “adopting” individual residents to help enrich their Christmases in this different year.

Koontz also told commissioners about budgetary and census figures – both impacted by the COVID pandemic – with year-to-date financials showing a positive revenue of $941,440.

Monroe County Economic Development Coordinator Edie Koch updated commissioners on the Illinois Downstate Small Business Stabilization Grant, telling them it is becoming available to support more types of businesses. To earn the grant, businesses must use the money to continue to operate, she said. 

Grants of up to $25,000 are being made available.

Monroe County State’s Attorney Lucas Liefer discussed obtaining and using new software that will enhance the management of documents used as investigation and case records.  

The software by Karpel Solutions of St. Louis, is used by 72 county offices in Illinois and enables police investigation reports to be filed and reviewed digitally.  The system also shares arrest and other information seamlessly between counties, he said.  

Liefer said he was obliged both to buy and install the software by Dec. 31, but that would not be possible.  He recommended his office wait into next year to continue to negotiate costs and discuss the usefulness with other counties.

The commissioners concurred.

Finally, several resolutions were passed by the board.

First came one requested by the Randolph County Commissioners to urge Gov. JB Pritzker to restore operation of the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta to its former status. The resolution notes that the complex hosts the world’s largest trapshooting championship. The state also charged vendors for the canceled event this year and is changing future policies that will damage the WSRC, the resolution states.

Another resolution appointed Dennis Knobloch of Valmeyer as a representative for the Monroe Randolph County Enterprise Zone and George Green of Fults as a representative to the Monroe County Economic Development Corporation and Southern Illinois Four-Lane Highway Coalition.  

A resolution reappointed Brad Krueger of Waterloo to the Monroe County Assessment Board of Review. Resolutions reappointed Don Schrader, Kim Lamprecht, Mike Lloyd and Kevin Scheibe to the Monroe County Local Emergency Planning Committee.  

Larry Chausse was appointed to replace Dan Hannon on the Monroe County Local Emergency Planning Committee.   

Douglas Sondag and Laurie Brown were appointed to the Valmeyer Fire Protection District. Brown and Karin Callis were reappointed to the Monroe County Regional Planning Commission and Joseph Berry of Columbia was reappointed to the Monroe County Nursing Home Memorial Endowment Association.

The next meeting of the Monroe County Board will be Jan. 4 at the courthouse.  

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