By Lisa Kopochinski
SARPY COUNTY, Neb.—With funding in place, Sarpy County has chosen a site for its new $65 million jail.
The new jail will be built near the current jail on the Sarpy County courthouse campus near 84th Street and Highway 370 in Papillion, Nebraska.
County officials have been concerned for years about current jail, which is overcrowded and lacks resources for inmates with mental health issues.
According to an article in the Omaha World Herald, the county approved an agreement in early December to pay DLR Group $4.7 million for design and architectural services for the jail.
Plans involve tripling the size of the present jail to more than 400 beds and including mental health resources and programs for those about to leave jail.
According to the Sarpy County website, as Nebraska’s fastest growing county, the current jail—which was built in 1989—was designed to hold 148 inmates. It reached its capacity in the mid-1990s and has not kept up with the county’s population growth. In 2019, the jail typically housed up to 200 inmates daily.
Additionally, the jail lacks sufficient space for female inmates and is not equipped to handle inmates with long-term medical and mental health needs. This forces Sarpy County to transport inmates to other jurisdictions, which has cost the county millions of dollars over the past 10 years,
The Omaha World Herald reported that a design team of four county officials will spend the next several months meeting with judges, police officers and leaders of nearby cities to understand what they think the jail requires from a design perspective. The team—comprised of Stu DeLaCastro, the county’s director of administrative services; John Hubbard, director of corrections; Brian McCoy, assistant director of facilities management; and Captain Brian Richards of the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office—will work with DLR Group as it maps out blueprints.
“Those four people will reach out and… start getting input early on, before we ever start putting walls in,” said Sarpy County Administrator Dan Hoins in a statement.
With final designs at least a year away, preliminary plans call for a multi-story building that blends in with the surrounding government buildings. The facility will connect to the courthouse via an enclosed walkway. This will allow corrections officers to safely and easily transport inmates to and from the courthouse.
The county is not expecting to raise the property tax rate to build the new jail. Instead, the design agreement money will come from a fund that the county has dedicated to capital projects.
The jail will also be paid for with a portion of the county’s existing levy and a portion of inheritance tax revenue. These sources are expected to provide about $6 million a year toward the project under 2019 property valuation figures, according to the county.
Construction on the jail could begin as soon as February 2021, with a completion date tentatively scheduled for August 2022.