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Island County jail systems update to cost upward of $800K

Updating the Island County Jail electronic control systems presents a logistical challenge and a potential can of worms waiting to have its top removed.

“This is an old analog system that needs replacement,” Bill Oakes, Island County Public Works director, recently told the board of county commissioners.

Real Estate Excise Tax funds totaling more than $817,000 should be sufficient to carry out the work. The actual contract estimate from the design consultant is less, he added.

“I have to caution the board,” Oakes said. “Once you open the system, the uncertainties are high and the system must be restored for the jail to operate efficiently.”

The county will include a 10 percent, or $60,000, contingency for the project.

“Hopefully that’s enough to cover what we find,” Oakes said.

Commissioner Phil Bakke inquired about the state of jail operations during construction. The public works director said sections of the facility will have to be operated manually.

“We’ll have to work closely with jail staff on how we phase the work,” Oakes said.

Commissioner Mac McDowell voiced his apprehension about the possibility of a fire breaking out while the jail is vulnerable.

“Obviously we’re in charge of the safety of those inmates,” he said.

Oakes assured McDowell that the Sheriff’s Office has conducted fire drills with simulations using manual controls. Oakes will arrange a joint briefing for the board with his staff and the sheriff once a contract has been awarded and the details of construction have been worked out with the contractor.

The project has seen a $30,000 to $40,000 cost increase, Oakes added. But the renovations are absolutely necessary.

“He’s going to have a tough project ahead of him,” said Budget Director Elaine Marlow of the mounting costs.

Oakes highlighted the archaic fire system as one of the undertaking’s key components.

“That system needs to be updated,” he said.

The complex project will also include tackling the alarm and door system, both of which Oakes said are “very old” and not up to code.

“We have to do this,” he said, adding that the three-phased construction project would take at least six months beginning in late summer. If the jail were closed, the project timeline would be reduced to one-and-half to two months. “We can’t go with that scenario.”

San Francisco-based KMD Architects, a firm with Seattle offices, has been tasked with designing the jail renovations.

The county is now ready to go out with a call for bids for construction.

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