Mandan News

Three finalists named for combined jail

By LeAnn Eckroth, Lee News

A list of eight jail design offers for a combined Burleigh County/Morton County jail has been narrowed to three.

Burleigh County Sheriff Pat Heinert said a committee next Friday will interview:
* The UBL Group of Bismarck in cooperation with Venture Architects.
* REH Architects of Bismarck in cooperation with HOK.
* Al Fitterer of Mandan in cooperation with Klein McCarthy.

The architect selected will draw up plans for a two-county jail able to hold 450 to 475 inmates. The jail is expected to be placed in southeast Bismarck.

After the interviews, a recommendation of an architect will be made to the Burleigh County Commission in early October, Heinert said.

Burleigh and Morton county voters next June will be asked separately to approve a home rule charter and a special half-cent sales tax to pay for the jail.

Both counties have experienced serious shortages of cell space for inmates and regularly must move their inmates to other jail facilities.

According to Heinert between January and August, Burleigh County’s average daily inmate population was 168. “Our maximum is 138. We’re considered full at 118 inmates,” he said.

On average, 30 to 40 Burleigh County inmates must be kept in other facilities daily.
Heinert said those costs are mounting. “We have already spent $205,000 for outside housing of inmates for the year. We were budgeted for $130,000,” he said.

Morton County Commissioner Cody Schulz said the Morton County jail was originally built for 31 inmates. Because the state now allows for some double-bunking, it can hold 41 inmates, he said. Schulz said on average, Morton County had to decide placement for nearly 45 inmates daily on average.

On Friday, the Morton County facility held 37 inmates and 12 others were being held at other jails, said Commissioner Andy Zachmeier.

The architect named will determine site, do preliminary drawings of what the jail might look like and give a solid cost estimate, according to Heinert. He would like a clear design ready to present before voters by sometime February. “It’s only fair to let the voters know what they would be paying for and what the cost is going to be,” Heinert said. Early studies have estimated the jail will cost $50 million.

Heinert said the interview committee will be represented by all four local law enforcement entities – Bismarck Police, Burleigh County Sheriff’s Office, Morton County Sheriff’s Office and the Mandan Police Department to ensure an impartial selection.

Home rule charters

Morton County will hold its home rule charter public hearing 6:30 p.m. Monday at the commission room of the Morton County Courthouse. Home rule charter commissioners will explain their June ballot for the charter and jail sales tax proposal.

Burleigh County will hold its home rule charter meeting 5 p.m. Thursday at the City/County Building and explain its limited home rule charter and sales tax ballot.
These meetings are a chance for voters to comment or ask for clarification about the charters and how the sales tax will pay for a jail.

Both sales taxes will end when the new jail is paid for. Under mutual agreement, the counties have agreed that Burleigh County will pay for 87 percent of the jail and Morton County pay 13 percent. By Burleigh County estimates, this formula would allow the jail to be paid off in six years or less.