Jail Consolidation 1

The original expansion plan for the Public Safety Building, seen from above, would have built four floors atop the building to consolidate Dane County's three jails. But contractors on the project found the existing support structure in the building could not support the plans. They are now looking at constructing an eight- or nine-story tower on the parking lot behind the building, at right.

Additional floors cannot be built on top of Dane County’s Public Safety Building without adding costly structural supports, a contractor’s analysis found, forcing the county to reconsider its jail consolidation plans by building a tower behind the existing structure instead.

The county approved a $75.2 million proposal last year to add four floors to the Public Safety Building, 115 W. Doty St., to allow the Sheriff’s Office to close the outdated jail on the sixth and seventh floors of the City-County Building as well as the Ferris Huber Center.

But a pre-design analysis by the project’s architect and engineering consultants at Mead & Hunt, Potter Lawson and HDR found the existing support structure would not hold the weight of additional floors, Sheriff Dave Mahoney said in a letter to County Board members. Mahoney said the Sheriff’s Office and county public works engineers were told about the deficiencies in mid-September.

Adding structural components to support construction above the four-story Public Safety Building would be unreasonably expensive and would alter the interior structure, Chief Deputy Jeff Hook said.

Relying on previously considered plans for jail expansion, the Sheriff’s Office and contractors are now considering building an eight- or nine-story tower on an adjacent parking lot, Hook said.

Jail expansion

Mahoney said he was initially concerned that the project would be delayed, lengthening the time inmates would be kept in the outdated jail on the upper floors of the City-County Building next door.

“It was a gasp followed by finding a solution,” Mahoney said.

Mead & Hunt and the Sheriff’s Office will present the findings and changes to the Jail Consolidation Project Review Committee at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Room 357 of the City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

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Further analysis is still required to determine whether the county can build on the parking lot, Hook said.

The solution could be devised quickly because a tower on the site of the parking lot had been proposed as part of one of the more costly proposals for the consolidation project, Hook said. Under that plan, the tower would have been built in addition to adding floors to the top of the Public Safety Building. That plan was rejected because it would have cost more than twice the current plan.

Jail Consolidation 2

The tower for expansion of the Public Safety Building, at right, would be built on the site of what is now a parking lot and would be roughly as tall as the Dane County Courthouse, at left.

There isn’t a significant difference in the square footage of the tower compared to the original plan to build atop the Public Safety Building, Hook said. In his letter to County Board supervisors, Mahoney said the project requirements would still be met through the tower, including the reduction of solitary confinement and increased medical and mental health care.

The tower will likely be about the same height as the Dane County Courthouse next door, Hook said, and about the height that building atop the Public Safety Building would have been.

Hook said a structural analysis had not been completed during the studies predating the final design decision last year because the Sheriff’s Office and Public Works believed that the Public Safety Building had been designed to be built upon. Design elements such as support pillars that extend through the roof indicate it was set for expansion. There are even extra buttons in the elevators to go to unbuilt upper floors.

Cost estimates for the revised project won’t be available until planning moves forward, Hook said.

The plans for the jail consolidation will come before the County Board again before a contract is signed with a construction company.

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Shelley K. Mesch is a business and technology reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She can be contacted at (608)252-6143 or smesch@madison.com