County board move could be next step to consolidating jails

URBANA -- A Champaign County Board committee Wednesday night voted to ask firms to submit request for qualifications to undertake a facility master plan for sheriff's law enforcement, jail operations and support programs.

The move could be the next step toward consolidating the two county jails, one in downtown Urbana and the newer, satellite facility in east Urbana.

The anticipated scope of services in the request includes examining the number of beds needed for inmates with mental health and medical issues, and the services that might be required. It also calls for an assessment of space needs for offices, training, records and storage, evidence storage and support programs for inmates. Building cost estimates are also part of the process.

The requests for qualifications are due May 2. Approval of a contract with the selected provider would come in June and the firm would begin work on July 1, under a suggested timetable.

"What we're trying to ascertain is what the best use of either building might be or might not be," said Stan James, the Rantoul Republican who is chair of the county board facilities committee. "It's not that we've already made up our mind to move everything to the satellite, it's that this person is going to come in and tell us."

But Champaign Democrat Giraldo Rosales said he was "apprehensive" about moving too quickly.

"I just don't want the same mistakes repeated that we did years ago when we built jail number one and jail number two just to expedite a request for qualifications because now is the time," he said. "I want to make sure that we are doing something inclusive and great and that we break out of the box and could be a model for other communities in Illinois."

But James said he was tired of waiting.

"The deterioration of the downtown jail (opened in 1980) is the main concern. We've got to do something," he said. "This is just a study. The county board is still going to look at it and the cost factors are going to come in."

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