Warren County has hired an architect to design its new $50 million jail. The fee is expected to be more than $3 million. One question is whether some of the current jail will be used in the new design. LAWRENCE BUDD/STAFF
Photo: Lawrence Budd
Photo: Lawrence Budd

Warren County settles on architect for $50 million jail

Warren County hired an Ohio architectural firm to design the new $50 million Warren County Jail after all.

The county agreed to pay Newark-based Wachtel & McAnally 7.5 percent of the total construction cost, expected to be $44 million to $45 million. The estimated fee is $3.3 million.

Wachtel & McAnally, which Sheriff Larry Sims credited with designing a third of Ohio’s county jails, replaces KZF Design, a Cincinnati firm that planned to collaborate with California-based Dewberry on the project.

“Today is a great day for Warren County. We are grateful our commissioners have agreed to a contract to hire Wachtel & McAnally as our architect and planners for our new jail and sheriff’s office,” Sims said in an email after the vote.

Commissioners Shannon Jones and Tom Grossmann voted Tuesday to contract with Wachtel & McAnally. Commissioner Dave Young was absent.

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Last summer, the commissioners picked KZF over Wachtel & McAnally, the firm preferred by a staff committee.

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But negotiations broke down with KZF, and the commissioners authorized negotiations with the Ohio firm in December.

“Wachtel and McAnally is pleased that we have been awarded the contract to design the proposed 468 bed Warren County Jail and Sheriffs Office,” firm President Gary McAnally, a Fairborn native, said in a statement.

The new jail is to hold 468 inmates, relieving chronically overcrowded conditions in the current facility permitted to hold 280.

“Our jail has been overcrowded for years now, and we have been releasing or refusing inmates on a regular basis. This can’t come soon enough,” Sims added.

RELATED: Taxpayers get chance to weigh in on new jail plan

The commissioners hiked county property taxes 0.25 percent to 7 percent, raising an estimated $10 million a year to finance the jail over 10 years or less.

Next, the county is to select a construction manager for the project and complete construction design by June 2019.

“We have meetings scheduled for next week to begin the design process. We are excited and look forward to working with (the project) team to design an economical and staff efficient facility that will work well for the County, Sheriff Sims and his staff,” McAnally added.

Deputy Administrator Martin Russell said the architect and construction manager will work with county staff on plans, including whether to build an entirely new facility or expand the existing jail in the county complex in Lebanon, or build the new facility on land on the edge of Lebanon.

“We’ll evaluate all options. It’s preferred it would be kept on the current site,” Russell said, adding he hoped to shorten timetable finishing the project.

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Construction of the new jail is expected to take two years, meaning it is expected to open in 2021.

“Even though we have a way to go, we are now able to sit at the table to plan for our future,” Sims said.