The current design of Carroll County’s proposed new jail now might be unfeasible after Carroll’s City Council voted Monday against removing four parking spots on Main Street to allow for the jail’s construction.
Plans for the new jail, which would be built adjacent to the Carroll County Courthouse to its west, include two entrances on Main Street that were contingent on the removal of the spots.
This is the third time the council has discussed the proposed ordinance to remove the parking spots. During the first two readings of the ordinance, the council voted to approve it, making Monday’s meeting the final decision for the change. However, three council members — Misty Boes, Clay Haley and Carolyn Siemann — voted against it Monday after saying they all have heard from city residents who don’t want to lose the parking spots, located in the center of Carroll’s downtown shopping space.
The parking spots have been central in debates between the city and the county about the proposed jail’s design, budget and execution.
After receiving bids for the jail construction that were higher than expected, Carroll County supervisors voted earlier this month to move forward with the project and accept the low bid from Badding Construction — $10.9 million, about $4 million more than outlined during a referendum campaign last year. Supervisors have worked with West Des Moines-based architecture and engineering firm Shive-Hattery to identify ways to shave about $550,000 from the construction costs, including using less insulation, omitting a public elevator, moving an electricity generator outside and delaying the purchase of kitchen appliances.
They also are working with financial advisers to explore the possibility of borrowing up to $1.9 million more than what voters approved by accepting a higher interest rate and receiving more money up front from investors who buy the county’s bonds, which could mean several million dollars more repaid in interest in the coming years.
During the council’s first discussion about the parking spots on Aug. 12, some city officials suggested that as a gesture of harmony with the city, the county consider cantilevering, or setting back, the jail’s garage doors on Main Street rather than having them flush with the sidewalk, removing law-enforcement traffic from the sidewalk and street more quickly. Some council members had expressed concern about other drivers’ and pedestrians’ safety.
“I’d hope that after this conversation, (county supervisors) would take that into advisement and there’d be more weight (on the cantilevers) because of the concerns,” Mayor Eric Jensen said during that meeting.
A city building permit issued to Badding Construction for the jail project on Sept. 16 included three conditions: that the garage entries on Main Street be cantilevered; that major modifications to the plans related to the Main Street right of way would be reviewed by the city; and that the building plans would be modified if the council didn’t approve removing the parking spots.
The cantilever was included in the construction bids as an alternate project item and has not yet been approved by the county.
The county supervisors plan to hold a closed session about the jail plans during their meeting Monday morning.
During Monday’s council meeting, several council members as well as Carroll’s mayor said they were disappointed with the county’s handling of the jail project.
“We, the council, we’ve worked very hard to instill trust into the community again, partly when it comes to projects of this nature that require the public’s commitment to understanding that we’re trying to provide them with truth and honesty for projects we’re trying to do,” Jensen said. “I think this has set this back, based on discussions I’ve had with people. I think it’s going to take a little while before the trust of the community comes back again to do projects of this nature. We have projects we’ve contemplated bringing forward that we’ll have to table, because I don’t think they’re going to pass.”
Two of the three council members who voted to remove the parking spots as the county had requested, LaVern Dirkx and Jerry Fleshner — Mike Kots was the third — said they weren’t entirely happy with the execution of the project but that they didn’t want to go against the majority of the county voters who approved the project by voting “yes” in last year’s referendum.
Council members Boes, Haley and Siemann, the no votes, all said they’d heard from multiple people that removing more downtown parking spots — 15 already will be removed as part of the proposed jail design — could hurt downtown businesses.
“As a business owner, I’m certainly very sympathetic to business and commerce,” Haley said.
Carroll County Supervisors Neil Bock and Rich Ruggles, along with County Sheriff Ken Pingrey, attended Monday’s council meeting but did not speak.
Addressing them, Haley said, “I want to thank you for your diligent work. I’ll never say a bad thing about what you do. I don’t agree with some of what you do, but you don’t agree with some of what I do. … I sure appreciate you being here now, and I hope we can all work together ahead of things in the future to make a smoother process for the people of the County of Carroll as well as the people of the City of Carroll.”
It is unclear how the county will respond after the council’s vote, since the current jail design incorporates the parking spots’ removal. County Supervisors Neil Bock, Stephanie Hausman, Gene Meiners and Rich Ruggles declined to comment following the council’s decision. County Supervisor Dean Schettler — the sole vote against moving forward with the downtown jail project after the bids came in, who has expressed concerns about its cost and location — could not be reached for comment.