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Officials to take virtual reality tour of jail

ALPENA — Today is a big day for the Alpena County Sheriff’s Office, as law enforcement officials and other partners will get a glimpse of what the new county jail to be built in Alpena will look like.

They also will be able to take a virtual stroll through the building to see what the completed project would look like.

At a meeting scheduled for today, the architectural firm behind the project will unveil a finalized plan on what the new jail will look like, what it will contain, and, more importantly, how much it will cost.

During the meeting, pictures and diagrams of the facility will be on display and people will also be able to take a stroll through the new office through the use of virtual reality. The event will allow officials to see firsthand what their working environment will be like and allow them to offer suggested tweaks to the plans before they’re finalized and approved by the Alpena County Board of Commissioners, which is expected to happen Tuesday.

“We will begin seeing everything in 2-D, but then they are going to put goggles on us and we will see it in 3-D,” Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski said. “We’ll be able to walk through it and see what it will look like once it is done. We are going to let staff do it, too, so they can see if there are any issues with the design that needs to be corrected, so we can address them now instead of having to do a work change order later, which costs money.”

Voters in November 2017 passed a 20-year, 1-mill property tax to to cover the cost of the bonds used to pay for the $11.4 million facility, which will be built on M-32.

There was a slight delay in the project after the original architectural firm made a mistake in its cost estimates because it apparently didn’t consider the cost of about 15,000 square feet of the building.

Originally, the design estimated costs about $3 million over the budgeted amount, but the new designs should have shaved the costs down to where they need to be. The early pre-designs were drafted by Eckert Wordwell, an architecture firm out of Kalamazoo, which was hired by Oak City Contracting, of Alpena, early in the process. Neither of those two companies are currently involved in the project.

Kieliszewski said that mistake sent the project back to the design phase for amendments, so it would not go over budget. He said that, because the error had been found early enough, the project has not, and will not, go over the amount the voters approved.

“The jail construction company we hired will give us a guaranteed maximum cost and, if they go over it, they have to eat the difference,” Kieliszewski said. “So they are going to be very careful in their pricing, because they aren’t going to want to do that.”

The property where the jail is to be built is owned by the county and is just off the highway near Sportsmans Drive. Although no visible construction has been done, there has been work going on behind the scenes to get the land ready for building.

Kieliszewski said that, if the commissioners approve the new design plans next week, action will pick up on the site.

“There will be stumps being removed and digging going on and really a lot of activity taking place out there,” he said. “The construction company still believes the building can be done and opened in the fall of 2020.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.