July 29, 2014

Study: McKenzie County needs 120-bed jail facility

By Stephanie Allums
Farmer Staff Writer

Amongst the many needs that McKenzie County is struggling for right now, include a larger jail facility.
According to Chairman Ron Anderson of the McKenzie County Board of Commissioners, building a larger jail to meet the growing population is one of the biggest needs that the county is facing today.
For many months, the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office has been transferring inmates to surrounding counties. Those facilities are at or reaching their capacities, so the McKenzie County transfers are being turned down now.
“The people that we have hired - CGL - to assess our law enforcement needs, tell us that McKenzie County will need a 100 to 120-bed jail in the future,” Anderson said.
One representative from CGL, the firm assisting the county with the jail project, said, “We provide scenarios based on what we know. We don’t have a crystal ball. Anyone who tells you what your jail population will be in 10 years is lying. Information is limited so this prediction is no guarantee. Based on what we know, this is what we recommend.”
The current jail is no where near the size that the county needs. According to the sheriff’s office, it’s usually at capacity, and that’s why there have been so many transfers.
There are nine long-term cells, two temporary holding cells, a couple detox rooms and a padded cell at the newly-remodeled McKenzie County Jail.
The sheriff’s office and the commissioners are working closely to come up with a viable solution.
At this point, the commission and the sheriff’s office are looking into purchasing a 40-acre parcel of land south of Watford City, along the route of the new southeast bypass.
“If the seller approves our offer and the soil boring tests determine it is a buildable site, then the board will make a motion at their Aug. 5 meeting to purchase the land,” Linda Svihovec, McKenzie County auditor, said. “If all of that doesn’t work out, then we will start over on a site.”
There is one catch - building a new jail will take a while. And the county needs more beds for inmates right now.
The commissioners are also looking into a more time-pressed, temporary solution to help with the influx of inmates.
They discussed turning the current water building, located behind the courthouse, into a temporary facility with jail cells. Basically, they would build a building within a building.
According to CGL, it would take no more than one year to turn the water facility into a temporary facility to provide more beds and cells for McKenzie County inmates.
“This solution would be beneficial with moving forward,” Sheriff John Fulwider said.
Cost estimates for constructing a temporary facility will be presented to the board on Aug. 19.
For an entire new jail with a capacity of 100 to 120, the cost would be roughly $40 million, according to Anderson.
“Nothing has been finalized on any of the jail decisions,” Svihovec said. “The board is moving cautiously and slowly on this project.”