Jackson County has taken a step toward a new jail that, if the schedule holds, would be open in 2024.
“I’m excited to get started,” Legislator Dan Tarwater, D-Kansas City, said Monday after county legislators voted to hire JCDC Partners of Kansas City as the county’s jail owner representative.
The county will pay $1.31 million for the first two phases of work, essentially determining how many beds the county needs. Overall, the county anticipates spending $8.8 million with the company as it sees the county through to a new jail, though officials have said renovation of the current jail is not completely off the table.
Still, consultants in recent years have called the current jail obsolete and inefficient – and therefore expensive – to run.
Officials also have come back around to the idea of regional jail involving at least the county and Kansas City, and the agreement with JCDC leaves that option open. Kansas City also is looking for added jail beds.
“We should build one jail and work with partners,” Tarwater said.
Legislature Chair Theresa Galvin, R-Lee’s Summit, stressed the need for transparency and accountability to the public. JCDC is already scheduled to give its first update on Jan. 27.
“They’ll be reporting to us every six to eight weeks, depending on what’s going on,” she said.
Monday was also the first day on the job for Troy Schulte, the new county administrator. Legislators approved his $200,001-contract last month. Legislator Scott Burnett, D-Kansas City, said last week that Schulte is being brought in to do three big things: build a new jail, fix the Downtown Courthouse and clean up the property assessment process that has dogged officials for much of the year.
Shulte, who just left the job of city manager in Kansas City, has spoken favorably about a regional jail.
County Executive Frank White Jr. has issued an executive order naming Shulte to the position. The Legislature can override those orders, and Legislator Jeanie Lauer, R-Blue Springs, on Monday made an attempt to do that. She expressed the same concern she did last month with the vote on his contract – that the position is not in the County Code.
But her motion got only three votes – hers and those of Jalen Anderson, D-Blue Springs, and Ronald Finley, D-Kansas City – among the nine legislators.
Legislators did approve a $6.36 million contract with the Schindler Elevator Corporation of Kansas City to start rebuilding the Downtown Courthouse elevators, some of which have been out of service since late January. The work is expected to take about 15 months.