The Columbia County Detention Facility had a constant stream of visitors this week.
Escort vehicles with ‘wide load’ signs leading tractor trailers carrying cement-looking cubes kept checking in at the county jail. Those cubes? They’re pre-cast jail cells that are getting installed at the facility as part of a multi-million upgrade and renovation project at the jail.
The jail, which was originally constructed in 1986, has a capacity of 254 inmates, has been battling overcrowding issues this past year due to covid-19.
County Manager David Kraus said the new and renovation work at the jail was needed because the old jail was aging, in bad shape and had critical flaws.
He said for years county officials were seriously considering constructing a new jail and even had a study commissioned on the proposal. However as construction costs continued to increase, officials decided to add pods to the jail and to remodel the old jail.
Kraus said the renovation work will replace all the beds in the old jail cells and the facility will be more efficient and safer for detention officers.
Assistant County Manager Kevin Kirby said the project began roughly four months ago around Oct. 1.
The first steps of the construction work were to eliminate a large amount of water that was on the site, which was followed by subsoil excavation work to remove unsuitable fill and replace it with proper fill to erect the building on.
Tests were then conducted to ensure the settlement that occurred was complete to make sure the building would not crack in the future due to the amount of back fill required.
“We have the footers, electrical, the plumbing and we just started bringing our pre-cast cells in and we should have them set by next week,” Kirby said.
The pods began arriving Tuesday and construction crews are utilizing a crane to set them up in the new facility. Each cube has two windows and a door.
“We are on schedule, but rain plays a factor in anything that we’re doing,” Kirby said. “This part of the project, not the remodeling of the existing facility, but the addition, we hope to be complete by February of 2022.”
The new addition at the detention center will push the facility’s capacity up by more than 200 beds.
The total project costs are estimated at $16 million and the county has spent roughly $2.4 million to date.
“The project is substantially on schedule and has a current completion date of February 2022,” Kirby said.
The Columbia County Detention Facility received its last substantial upgrade work in the mid-1980s, when mechanical doors where replaced.
Once the current construction is completed, everyone will be moved into the new facility while renovation and upgrades to the current facility are completed.