FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday to send the dispatch Building Committee’s proposal for a new, stand-alone dispatch center to voters next June.

The move came after architects from Bunker & Savage made a presentation on renovating a portion of the jail into a dispatch center. The project was estimated to cost $258,700 for 1,253 square feet. The proposed stand-alone building is proposed at 2,200 square feet and is estimated to cost $629,300.

The renovation figures didn’t include the cost of moving or of all the workstations, among other items, according to Building Committee members.

The renovation would take away four of the eight cells in the minimum security area.

Under that plan, a separate entrance would have been created by eliminating some of the outside recreation area for inmates on the right side of the jail. Two doors inside the jail would have been cemented up so the area could not be accessed from the jail, architect Craig Boone said. The ceiling would have been lowered to cut down on sound, and the area above the ceiling would have be used for the mechanical systems, including heating and ventilation, he said.

Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay, who brought in the Augusta architectural firm to check out the jail, opposed the vote to move forward on the Building Committee’s recommendation.

The committee proposes to construct a new building on county property where the sheriff’s office/dispatch center and jail are located. Building Committee members believe that they can get estimate costs below $600,000 prior to the referendum in June.

The county’s Budget Committee endorsed the Building Committee’s plan.

In fact, Budget Committee Chairman John Calloway of Avon said that after commissioners asked them to look at the jail and dispatch center earlier this year, the Budget Committee recommended going with a stand-alone building on county property.

Calloway called for a vote to be taken Tuesday.

County custodian Greg Roux said he had some concerns about the jail proposal. Among them was the smaller square footage, lack of a mechanical room and not having closed-off break and training areas in the center.

If repairs needed to be done to the furnace or ventilation system, Roux said, then people would be working in the dispatch center on ladders while dispatchers were handling emergency calls.

If the jail project was brought up to the same square footage as the proposed stand-alone building and the costs that were omitted were included, Roux said, there would be less than $100,000 difference in the price.

Commission Chairman Fred Hardy of New Sharon said his biggest concern if the board went with refurbishing the jail was that it would eliminate any chance of the county getting a prerelease program in there that could bring in $35,000 to $50,000 to offset taxes for taxpayers. Jail administration has been working for a couple of years to bring in the prerelease program, but so far it hasn’t come through.

Hardy said he gave up on putting the dispatch center in the jail  earlier, after several concerns were raised, including noise.

Hardy said he would like to see the stand-alone building’s cost brought down below $600,000.

Building Committee Chairman Stan Wheeler said that possibly before the project goes to referendum, those figures can be tightened up.


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