A long-awaited and much-needed expansion of the Johnson County jail has been given the final approval it needs, and county officials can now look for a company to do the work.
The Johnson County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved plans for the expansion during a special meeting on Monday. The addition to the existing jail was designed by RQAW Corp., a Fishers-based architecture and engineering firm.
Now, the county will use the approved plans to solicit bids for the multi-million dollar expansion. The county will likely select a contractor next month, and construction is expected to begin next spring. The expansion will take a year to a year and a half to complete, commissioner Kevin Walls said.
The exact cost of the jail will not be known until a bid is accepted during a public meeting, Walls said. Latest estimates put the cost between $20 million and $25 million, and the Johnson County Council passed a local income tax earlier this year to pay for the expansion. It took effect last week.
For years, county officials and multiple sheriffs have grappled with how to address a chronic overcrowding issue at the jail. In 2010, voters rejected a $23 million referendum that would have added 400 beds to the existing 322 beds at the jail on Hospital Road in Franklin. Since then, the state has ordered the county to remedy the jail’s overcrowding issues.
A committee made up of county leaders, judges and law enforcement professionals who spent years studying how to fix the jail overcrowding decided expanding the existing facility would be the best option.
The expansion includes adding 264 beds in a new wing of the jail and pull-in bays for arresting officers, and revamping the intake and medical areas of the jail.
The expansion’s main feature is a new building that will be built to the west of the existing jail, connected by a walkway. The addition will include about 74 new cells on two floors. Those cells will be designed to hold two, four or six inmates, depending on size, Walls said.
The expansion will also feature a central command center, which is a raised tower in the middle of all the cells so jail workers can monitor and see all the inmates at all times, Walls said.
Medical rooms and a three bay pull-in for arresting officers is also being added. The jail’s intake center will also be revamped as part of the plans.