Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Hailey P&Z endorses new jail plan

Express Staff Writer

The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission Monday approved Blaine County's plans for a new jail in the city's light-industrial area west of Friedman Memorial Airport.

During the May 16 public hearing, former and current county prosecuting attorneys Doug Werth and Jim Thomas both spoke in favor of the plan to build a new 35,000-square-foot public safety facility. The project would include a new jail, sheriff's office and emergency dispatch center.

In addition, several Sun Valley and county law enforcement officials voiced their support, as did all three county commissioners. County commissioner Sarah Michael presented the plan, which was described in detail by project representative Russ Moorhead, of Lombard-Conrad Architects.

Michael said the replacement facility for the leaky, overcrowded jail and sheriff's office on First Avenue in downtown Hailey will also have room for work-release programs, conference and visiting rooms, and exercise space and equipment.

Sheriff Walt Femling said the average stay for county inmates is 10 days.

Pastor Tito Rivera gave his support for the jail, explaining that in his efforts to help prisoners with alcohol, religious or spiritual problems, sometimes he is unable to do his work at the existing jail because "if the 'drunk tank' is full, we cannot have church. That is critical in (my view)."

Michael reiterated that in November the county got 60 percent voter approval for using existing county funds to pay for the new jail. The project would remove county police and jail services from the historic area of the city that is going through a redevelopment phase, she said.

All comment about the location for the new facility next to the airport was supportive, coming both from the public and P&Z commissioners.

The design of the project splits the building into a jail component on one side and administrative and dispatch components on the other. Outside the facility, sufficient parking space is planned to accommodate public safety and visitor traffic for a projected 20 years, said Hailey Planning Director Kathy Grotto.

Sheriff's Lt. Greg Sage said the project includes covered stalls for special-use vehicles such as the county patrol boat for area lakes and indoor parking for the county's mobile command RV and other patrol vehicles.

In case of an emergency, like an evacuation due to fire, exterior lighting could be boosted to 70 percent of what is allowable under the city's lighting ordinance, said lighting consultant Jeff Johnson. However, under typical conditions all lighting is to be in compliance with the city's so-called "dark skies ordinance."

The building is to be essentially brick with some glass block, a glassed-in mezzanine entrance and some false-glass windows to add character on the jail side of the project. The commission approved the design of the building with a few conditions, asking that the architects look at screening mechanical equipment to face the airport, that more "architectural interest" be added to the eastern elements and that more detail be added to the planned false windows on the jail.

Teresa Espedal, Blaine County chief probation officer, said the facility would be a big help for her office.

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