(Times Record (Fort Smith, AR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 16--Crawford County justices of the peace on Monday are expected to decide on an architect to build a proposed $20 million jail facility.
In an announcement Wednesday, a three-person selection committee made up of County Judge John Hall, Sheriff Ron Brown and Justice of the Peace and Jail Committee chairman Lloyd Cole announced Collierville, Tenn.-based SouthBuild TEAM was chosen over two other architects, HMN Architects and Cromwell.
Hall said the committee evaluated each company's experience in building jail facilities, how often the company finished a project on time, and each one's ability to stay within a budget and felt SouthBuild was the best fit.
"We are satisfied with the architect and we want to move forward; and unless the Quorum Court says otherwise, we believe we have the perfect choice," Hall said.
Monday, JPs will consider hiring the firm, including a provisional contract of no more than $15,000 for preliminary work.
Hall added that SouthBuild has more than two decades of experience in project management, programming, planning and design and has built several county jails in the state including Scott, Washington, White, Saline, Sevier and Lafayette counties and most recently Yell County.
He said the firm would assist the county in marketing a proposed sales tax that voters will consider in the May 20 primary election. Voters will consider a half-percent of the tax for the purchase of land and construction costs that would sunset in 10 years and also a permanent quarter-percent to cover operation and maintenance.
"They're going to spend a lot of time helping us market it. They've built 20 some-odd other jails, many here in the state, and have had other situations where that is a familiar thing for them," Hall said.
District 11 Justice of the Peace Carrie Jernigan said she feels the Quorum Court will be receptive to approve the firm.
"I think they picked the best firm possible for us, and they built the one (in Washington County) that we are practically mimicking our design after," Jernigan said. "I am anxious to get a firm picked and get started on marketing the tax right away."
A tax to fund a new jail has failed three times previously. Jernigan said after talking with several constituents, many felt the trouble with the tax before was lack of clarity, which she feels has been resolved.
"The biggest reasons it has failed in the past are the unknowns of what we're going to build, where it will be and what it will cost," she said. "Now that we've got those things tidied up, we can start a grassroots campaign to promote it and move this forward."
Hall said if the tax doesn't pass, all architectural work will cease and the county will only be obligated to pay the preliminary contract agreement.
Earlier this month, officials determined the location, an 8 1/2 -acre plot of land outside Van Buren city limits on U.S. 64.
Officials agreed to enter the county into a $275,000 contingency contract with the owners of property at 4301 U.S. 64, depending upon an environmental test of soil content contingencies, the passage of the sales tax, if the Quorum Court approves the architect, the location and funding for the property, and if the architect deems the site to be feasible.
A new jail would replace the 88-bed Crawford County Detention Center in Van Buren. The existing facility has failed three consecutive state inspections because of overcrowding issues. The latest inspection revealed that the same problems persisted, but the judicial committee extended the county's probationary period for an additional six months because of the proposed jail tax.
According to meeting documents, the committee will do a formal re-inspection in August, pending the results of the tax election, to determine whether the county can bring itself within compliance.
Also Monday, the Quorum Court will hear a report from the Crawford County Extension Service, will consider line item appropriations and will consider endorsing Van Buren business Engineered Fabricated Solutions for participation in the Tax Back Program.
The Quorum Court will meet Monday at 7 p.m. at the Crawford County Circuit Courtroom No. 2, 220 S. Fourth St., in Van Buren.
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