Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sheriff’s sally port fix back on track after bumps with city on design

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 6/25/2014

A renovation project to make the Franklin County Adult Detention Center a safer environment for the transport of prisoners is set to get under way this month and should be completed this summer, county officials said Tuesday.

The sally port at the jail, 305 S. Main St., Ottawa, has been inoperable for an extended period because the entrance was not designed for the size of vehicles a modern law enforcement agency now deploys, such as the Dodge Chargers used by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Jeff Richards, sheriff, said in a recent interview.

A renovation project to make the Franklin County Adult Detention Center a safer environment for the transport of prisoners is set to get under way this month and should be completed this summer, county officials said Tuesday.

The sally port at the jail, 305 S. Main St., Ottawa, has been inoperable for an extended period because the entrance was not designed for the size of vehicles a modern law enforcement agency now deploys, such as the Dodge Chargers used by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Jeff Richards, sheriff, said in a recent interview.

A sally port is an entrance that allows law enforcement officers to drive their vehicles into a secure area inside the building and take prisoners directly into the booking room at the jail, Richards said. Prisoners now are transported to a parking lot and are taken through the front door of the building, where members of the public could be in the lobby, he said. Parading prisoners through an open parking lot presents safety concerns for prisoners, officers and the public, he said.

“Upgrading the sally port is huge from a safety point, and it would also be nice to be able to use that portion of the building for its intended purpose,” Richards said in an April interview. “I don’t plan to spend any tax dollars to fund that. We’ll use an available trust fund of money seized or forfeited as a result of criminal investigations. I’m hoping [the work] will be finished this summer.”

After a few revisions to the project design by engineer Kevin Holland of Cook, Flatt, and Strobel Engineers PA, Topeka, this spring to comply with such regulations as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the City of Ottawa issued a permit for the project Monday.

Jim Haag, the county’s public works director, is serving as project manager for the sally port renovations. He said the work, which includes removing the existing sidewalk and curb and guttering, should begin in the coming days and be completed by August — weather permitting.

“A lot will depend on the weather,” Haag said. “The farmers need the rain occasionally, but the bad news is rain usually slows down construction.”

City commissioners said Monday they were caught somewhat off-guard at a recent joint meeting between city, county and school district officials when Richards questioned the status of the permit. But Richards said Tuesday he had no qualms with the city about the project and said he understood the need to comply with ADA regulations.

Wynndee Lee, the city’s planning and codes director, told Ottawa city commissioners the project was complicated because of several factors, especially with regard to meeting ADA regulations for sidewalk grade, landings and handrails.

“You have several things coming to play here — we have street curvature coming down to deal with storm water; we have gutter elevations that need to continue to flow, and then we have sidewalk and ADA issues ... and four access points in a half-block stretch, all at different elevations,” Lee said.

These issues made the project a little more complicated than it might first appear, she said, adding the city was timely in all of its responses to the engineer.

Bill Ramsey, the city’s interim public works director, said the city could not sign off on the project until the ADA regulations were satisfied. After a couple of design revisions, he said the final sticking point over ADA regulations was cleared up during a brief conference call with the engineer and the permit was issued.

“The final issues we kept going back and forth on was strictly on the ADA, and we have no choice on ADA,” Ramsey said. “We cannot sign off [on the project] and let the ADA go.”

Richard Nienstedt, city manager, endorsed the city staff’s actions.

“Local government ought to be the leaders in ADA compliance,” Nienstedt said.

Though Richards said in April he had hoped the renovations could begin this spring, the project still is on track to meet his original goal of being completed this summer.

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