New Lee County Jail to be located south of Dixon


LEE COUNTY — Lee County Sheriff John Simonton and the committees working on the plans for the new Lee County jail, which was slated to attach to the new Lee County courthouse, soon found out that the project was cost prohibitive in that location.

The county had imposed a cap of $17.5 million and the projection cost of the building was reaching near the $20.3 million point.

The plan now is for the jail to be located just south of the city of Dixon on county owned property, near the LOTS and Lee County Animal Control buildings.

Initial assessment has proven that electricity and telephone access is already available. There is also water, gas and fiber on the property.

“This location is a better fit,” said Simonton. “In our original plans we failed to take into consideration the need for the large pieces of equipment needed on a project of this size and the lay down of construction materials.”

There are a number of advantages to the new site. It will be easier to construct on a flat surface and will eliminate the need for ramps and such. There will be no disruption to normal business and parking issues. And it will allow the option to delay demolition of the old building, which could cost up to one million dollars.

There are also a few disadvantages to building outside of the city.

One disadvantage is the transportation of prisoners to and from court. An option instead of transporting the prisoners would be to utilize video arraignment and conferencing technology to alleviate some of transportation. Simonton has also spoken to some of the judges about clustering court appearances to consolidate transportation as much as possible.

Another disadvantage is access to the sheriff’s department by personnel at both the new and the old courthouse. Once again, an effort to consolidate those meetings would be utilized.

There will be some additional engineering costs for this site, and there could be a delay in the start of construction.

The new plan is for a single level, approximately 35,000 square foot building, with a mezzanine level in the center for observation of the inmate’s cells.

The firm of Willett Hoffman and Associates is continuing work on engineering and survey. The design schematic will be drafted by the St. Louis based HOK architecture firm and new less costly materials for construction will be sought by Ringland Johnson Construction.

“I am not sure that these steps will all come to fruition by the Jan. 16 Lee County Board meeting,” said Simonton. “But I am sure by the February meeting we will be ready to present the revised plans.”