Byce & Associates presented the proposed Facilities Master Plan to the Antrim County Board of Commissioners on June 3rd. This plan includes several options for new or renovated Antrim County jail and administrative buildings.
The one-hour presentation regarding the options can be found at 42-minute mark of this video.
The topic of a new or improved jail and administrative facilities has been shelved during the pandemic, and the original studies need updating. However, the trained and smooth consultants remain very convincing about the need for new facilities.
Several of the commissioners asked the right questions, which are some of the same questions I have.
These are my questions, in no particular order:
1. Does the county still need more room for its administration if there is now a policy allowing working at home? The county parking lot has been quite empty lately when I drive by. Do they even know what their work-at-home policy will be?
2. Have the needs of the jail changed since the study was last completed? The state has legalized marijuana, and they are promoting the Stepping Up Program to promote options to jail, which does nothing to rehabilitate anyone.
3. Whenever I hear consultants talking about industry standards, it reminds me of people trying to keep up with the Jones. Why don’t we just evaluate our own needs versus comparing ourselves with others? For example, an office of 100 square feet might be fine, until the consultants tell you that industry standards are higher, and convince you that “other counties” have bigger offices.
4. I was concerned about Ed Boettcher’s comment at the previous meeting, regarding how terrible the jail is for the employees. He repeated over and over that the break room was in a closet and was unacceptable, and stated that he wouldn’t want to work there.
My response would be that regardless of whether we value our police, most people in this county do not get special break rooms, or even breaks. If jail employees choose their place of employment based on the break room, we have a problem.
5. Will the new jail cost us more or less to operate? If it is safer and more efficient, it should be able to operate with fewer employees. Can Sheriff Bean adjust his operating budget to help fund the jail? Sheriffs in other towns have modified their operating budgets after the building of newer and more efficient jails.
Of course, we all want the newest and the best, but the Commissioners need to be very careful spending taxpayers’ hard earned money on these projects.