A Charlotte architecture firm well-versed in correctional center and energy-efficient design will plan Orange County’s new $20 million jail on Old N.C. 86.
Moseley Architects will begin designing the 144-bed Orange County Detention Facility this month. Construction could begin by mid-2016, officials said, with the facility opening in 2019.
The county sought an architect that shares its values, Board of Commissioners Chairman Earl McKee said.
“Our priority is to keep our citizens safe,” he said, “while also ensuring that those who are incarcerated are treated humanely.”
Moseley Architects has designed more than 85 correctional centers, many in central North Carolina, over the last 10 years. They specialize in energy-efficient design, including solar panels, water- and energy-efficient features and using windows to maximize natural light.
The county will finance the project as part of its long-range construction budget. Sheriff Charles Blackwood said he has also met with federal marshals to ask what federal money might be available.
“I think the question that needs to be asked ... is what do we have on the table, what can we offer one another, since you want to house (prisoners) here, we’re talking about a new jail, what’s the possibility of getting some dollars for the new construction?” he said.
“Although (federal dollars) have dried up, it’s not out of the question for them to write a check like they have in the past,” he said.
The county is interested in a “blended” facility, Blackwood said – pods around a central control room, dayrooms and dorm-like areas, and modular, steel cells welded in place to provide shelter from natural disasters and limit the spread of disease.
“By creating a blend of housing units, it works better,” he said.
Each cell will hold one or, if needed, two inmates, he said, and include a shower.
The county has a 50-year lease signed in 2013 for 6.8 acres of state land on the southeastern corner of Interstate 85 and Old N.C. 86 in Hillsborough. The lease – at a rate of $1 a year – set a five-year state deadline for completing the detention facility.
The site has room to grow to 250 beds by 2033. It replaces a 138-bed jail built downtown in 1925.
The existing jail has four cellblocks, with a central monitoring station. Roughly eight of the 42 jail deputies work a 12-hour shift, watching video surveillance and keeping regular, physical checks.
The commissioners have not decided what to do with the old jail. It has been renovated several times and regularly exceeds occupancy limits with up to 170 inmates a day. That includes an average of 54 federal inmates awaiting trial in Durham, Greensboro or Winston-Salem, Blackwood said.
The federal government is projected to pay Orange County roughly $1.4 million through June 2016 to house its inmates, or about $66 a day per inmate, Blackwood said. The average daily cost to house local and state inmates is $64, he said.
The county has asked the federal government to pay more – $96 a day per inmate – since the last rate review was in 2007, he said, and costs have risen. They’ll seek another review once the new detention facility is completed, he said.
The new detention center’s goal, he said, will be to reduce the number of low-level offenders being housed. The Sheriff’s Office has been meeting regularly to talk about programs with other agencies involved in offenders and their families’ lives, from court and legal officials to the health department, child support offices and faith community.
“We’re looking at many things we can do to give people the self-worth to not to want to come back to jail,” Blackwood said.