Optimists hear about proposed new jail

Courtesy Photo Optimist Club Vice President Jim Seguin, Undersheriff Terry King, Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski and Optimist Secretary Beckie Thomson shake hands following a recent presentation to the club.

Alpena County Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski and Undersheriff Terry King spoke to the Optimist Club of Alpena at their recent morning breakfast meeting at JJ’s Steak & Pizza House.

King began by stating that their job at the sheriff’s office is to keep the residents of Alpena County safe. To do that they need the proper tools. Included in those tools is a secure place to house criminals from the area.

King then told of the history of the current county jail. It was constructed in 1956 as a 30-bed facility. In the 1970s, a gym was added to provide exercise space for the inmates and in the 1980s, a 40-person addition was added that contained 4-10 person cells.

He said they’ve known for some time that the current jail would need to be remodeled or replaced because of the problems they encounter daily. Subsequently, a 12-person committee was formed to research possible solutions to the problem. After much research and deliberation, the committee that had now expanded to 38 members decided that the best, most efficient and economical solution was to construct a new facility to house the jail and sheriff’s office.

King then presented many slides showing the problems with the current facility including bad layout for corrections officers in relation to the prisoners, rust eating away at all the metal components of the building, many substantial cracks in the 60-year old concrete block walls, a leaky roof, plumbing, electrical and computer infrastructure problems, and the outdated finishes in the building that are not conducive to housing sometimes violent prisoners.

This is a huge health and safety issue for the inmates and especially the officers working in these conditions. King noted that they will be conducting jail tours every Thursday until the millage vote in November to show the problems with the current facility.

Kieliszewski then talked about the process of selecting a site for the new facility. He said one of the problems with the current location is that when a call for help comes in, in most cases the deputies have to first drive through the city to get there.

That is time consuming and response time can be crucial in emergency cases. He went through the list of possible sites and addressed the problems with each that ranged from cost, to location and availability of utility infrastructure.

The site the committee selected is on the north side of M-32 about half way between Sportsman’s Drive and Indian Reserve Road, just east of the airport. All necessary utilities are available, the location should improve response time and the county already owns the site.

He said the new facility, if approved by the voters, will be a 106-bed facility housing the sheriff’s office and providing ample storage for all equipment. The new facility would be built at a cost of $10 to $12 million dollars.

They are asking to levy 1 mill county wide for a period of 20 years to provide the funds to construct the new facility.

King said, “We are doing our best not to cost the tax payers a lot of money. This millage is not asking a lot out of the tax payers. It is an average of $50 a household per year, based on an average state equalized value of homes in Alpena.

This millage is far less expensive to the tax payers than the possibility of housing inmates with other counties or the possible remolding of the old jail, as this would cost the tax payers thousands and thousands of dollars per year.

Any questions about the millage or jail tours can be directed to Kieliszewski at 354-9836 or King at 354-9837.