No improvements this year to county jail

No improvements this year to county jail

URBANA — There won't be any structural improvements to Champaign County's satellite jail until next year, a county board committee heard Tuesday.

The county board's facilities committee learned a month ago that cracks in the concrete panels on the jail's exterior were a potential threat to the building's structural integrity.

Structural engineer John Frauenhoffer of Engineering Resource Associates Inc. of Champaign had called the building's design "a house of cards" because of some corrosion in structural steel.

But it isn't a major concern yet, a second engineer, Howard Hill of the Northbrook firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., told the county board last month.

And Sheriff Dan Walsh said Tuesday that he thinks major repairs to the building at 502 S. Lierman Ave., U, can wait.

"After I saw that first report where we talked about a 'house of cards' I was concerned. I've got employees and I've got inmates in this building and I wanted to be sure that it wasn't going to fall down," he said. "That's why I had a national expert come in and take a look.

"And so I'm saying that you've got plenty of time to make a cautious decision."

Whether there is a need for major repairs at the 18-year-old facility, or something less comprehensive, will be determined by Gorski Reifsteck architects of Champaign and others who already have begun a master plan of the sheriff's department facilities. That plan is expected to be completed in early 2015, county officials said Tuesday.

"They're going to take into account John's study and Howard's study," Walsh said, "and they may recommend exactly what John said to do, and you guys may have to decide to do that before we put any more money into it. It may work out that way. But my point is that we can wait and see before making a decision.

"The building's not in danger of falling down. I'm very comfortable with what Howard said. We can wait."

Van Anderson, the county's deputy administrator of finance, told the committee "there's not enough time to get anything done before winter so unfortunately we're going to go through another winter with the seams and cracks in the condition they're in at this point. So we're going to have a little more deterioration.

"But we will have a path forward. As the master plan comes out we'll now exactly the steps we need to take to get this taken care of."

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