Warren County looking at 6 designs, 2 locations for $50 million jail

Warren County’s next jail could be replaced or expanded within the county complex in Lebanon or moved onto land on the edge of town.

Gary McAnally, the principal architect on the project, unveiled a half dozen options this week for the Warren County commissioners. He then met with County Sheriff Larry Sims and a team assembled to recommend the design to be used on the jail, expected to cost $50 million and take at least two years to build.

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First, McAnally showed a one-story design, favored on a cost basis and in terms of safety for staff, but taking up too large a footprint to be built alongside the existing jail and other buildings in the county complex between East Avenue and the Ohio 48 Bypass in Lebanon.

“If you go one story, it would not fit in that area,” McAnally said on Tuesday, before showing designs with more dorm-style holding facilities or multiple floors, one rising three stories.

Another option would be to renovate and expand the existing jail, in a building also housing the sheriff’s office. The county court, also currently located here, is moving into the common pleas court building across Justice Drive.

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This option would take four years, about twice as long as the others, McAnally said, while creating other challenges related to using the jail, while renovating and expanding it.

To avoid problems with space at the county complex, a one-story jail could be constructed on land off Ohio 63 and Markey Road, on the west side of Lebanon.

County Administrator Tiffany Zindel asked the commissioners if they had an “aversion to going off site.”

Commissioner Shannon Jones said she was open to going to the new site, but warned this could result in delays related to “other dynamics in the community.”

While providing enough space for the facility and future expansion, this also would require jail staff to spend more time transporting inmates to court dates at the county complex.

Sims called for quick action after listening to McAnally lay out the options for the commissioners.

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Asked when he wanted to get started, Sims answered, “Last September.”

That was when the commissioners hired KZF Design, a Cincinnati firm that planned to collaborate with California-based Dewberry on the project, rather than Wachtel & McAnally, another Ohio-based firm favored by Sims and a committee set up to rate candidates for the job.

But negotiations broke down and the commissioners authorized negotiations with Wachtel & McAnally last month.

It has been more than two years since a Cleveland-based consultant presented the commissioners a study of the need for a new jail.

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In January, the county sales tax was increased 0.25 percent to cover financing for the project.

After the presentation to the commissioners, Wachtel & McAnally met with Sims and his staff to drill down on the options.

Then the architect is expected to come back to the commissioners with a recommendation, as the county also moves to pick a construction manager for the project.

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