Answer Man: I haven’t been following this story as closely as a responsible citizen should, but can you tell me: Once the new Greene County Jail opens this spring, what are the plans for the current jail? — Scott
First of all, Scott, I think you are, in fact, a responsible citizen for even knowing that a new $150 million Greene County Jail is about to be finished.
I wrote about it recently.
The answer to your question is that Greene County administrators don’t yet know how the current space will be used once inmates are transported to the new jail, on 23 acres at West Division Street and North Haseltine Road.
The existing jail is at 1000 Boonville Ave.
The only thing for sure is that it will be used by the county for county needs.
Inmates will be moved into the new jail in a month or so. Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott has said he will not disclose the exact date in advance, for security reasons.
In addition to cells, the current jail building has offices for detectives and patrol and jail employees. All employees will move to the new jail.
Chris Coulter, Greene County administrator, tells me the county has hired an architecture firm, N-FORM Architecture, at 312 W. Commercial St., to assess the possible use of what will soon become the former jail.
“We have no idea how it will be used,” Coulter says. “We are in the early stage of assessing our space needs.”
Figuring out how to use the jail space is part of the county’s efforts to compile a “master campus plan,” Coulter says.
The county is working with architect Jennifer Wilson.
It is her job, Coulter says, to provide information on how much space is available, how much of that space can be remodeled, how much it might cost, which county departments need more space now and in the future, and what are the advantages, if any, to move people from where they work today to the former jail space.
“We have a lot of office holders who have space needs and future space needs,” Coulter says.
For example, the office of Dan Patterson, Greene County prosecuting attorney, now rents floors 6, 7 and 8 at the 11-story Cox Medical Tower, 1443 N. Robberson Ave.
The 10th floor is home to the Greene County administrative offices, the county commission, as well as the budget, purchasing and public information offices.
Will any of those offices move into the space now occupied by the jail?
Again, too early to tell, Coulter says.
It also remains to be seen, he says, how well a structure built to be a jail can be renovated into, say, office or storage space. The building, for example, has narrow and durable windows.
“It’s not every day a jail has an opportunity to be repurposed into something else,” Coulter says.
Capt. Dave Johnson has worked in the Greene County Sheriff’s office 26 years, mostly in corrections.
He tells me the five-story structure has two elevators and its first floor, years ago, was used for office space.
Other parts of the building, over the years, have been renovated and, at times, used for purposes other than incarceration, Johnson says.
The two-story section has four pods for inmates, as well as offices, a booking area and a medical center.
I asked Coulter how long it will take Wilson, the architect, to interview people, crunch the numbers and report back to the three-member Greene County Commission.
“It should happen in the near future,” he says.
This is Answer Man column No. 4.