Colorado consultant tapped to oversee plans for new jail|[08/01/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 1, 2008

A five-member panel recommended Thursday that Warren County Board of Supervisors hire a Coloradobased consultant to plan a new county jail. Supervisors will act on the recommendation at its regular meeting Monday.

Three firms submitted proposals by the July 14 deadline and were reviewed by the panel, with Voorhis/Robertson Justice Services Inc. of Denver receiving the highest panel rating. Voorhis/Robertson submitted a bid of $139,908 for its services.

“It’s money well spent. This is a professional company that does this kind of work full time all across the country. We’re not getting second best of anything. We’re getting the best advice we can get up front,” said Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace, a member of the panel that made the recommendation. “This will probably be one of the largest single investments the county has undertaken in a long time, and it has got to be done right.” The consultant will be in charge of determining the size, location and features of a new jail, as well as aiding in the selection of an architect. If able to begin work by October, the Voorhis/Robertson proposal claims a final report could be generated by August 2009.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Whether a bond issue or tax hike will fund the new jail remains unclear. Board President Richard George has said that decision is a long way off.

The other two consulting firms submitting proposal bids were Jackson-based Dean & Dean Associates Architects and Berkeley, Calif.-based Institute For Law & Policy Planning. Dean & Dean submitted a bid of $129,040, while the Institute For Law & Policy Planning bid was $169,000. The five-member panel, which consisted of Pace, District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, County Administrator John Smith, Undersheriff Jeff Riggs and Purchasing Agent Tonga Vinson, recommended Voorhis/Robertson unanimously.

On a 500-point scale, the panel gave Voorhis/Robertson 452 points, while Dean & Dean received 390 points and the Institute For Law & Police Planning received 387 points.

McDonald said he initially preferred to hire a consulting firm in Mississippi, but he personally recommended the Denver-based firm after learning Jackson-based Dean & Dean does not have a jail consultant on staff.

“I like spending Mississippi money in Mississippi, but even though they are a Mississippi company they were going to subcontract a jail consultant from South Carolina,” McDonald said.

All five supervisors have said a jail is a priority in light of overcrowding and safety concerns at the current jail. A total of 128 beds are available at the Warren County Jail across Grove Street from the county courthouse, which was built in 1906 and renovated in the 1970s. The beds are continually full with pre-trial detainees, while prisoners held by the City of Vicksburg are routinely taken to Issaquena County Jail at an increasingly hefty annual cost.

Average planning and construction time for a new jail is three to five years, according to the Department of Justice.