By CHANSE WATSON
WALLACE — An effort by the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office to construct a new public safety building hit an important milestone recently when county officials got an early look at what that building may look like if it becomes a reality.
Ken Gallegos and Russell Moorhead, representatives with Lombard/Conrad Architects, spoke to SCSO leadership and Shoshone County Commissioner John Hansen on May 1 at the current Sheriff’s Office building about a preliminary design for the proposed structure.
During the presentation, Moorhead provided the group with a multitude of details regarding the draft schematics. These schematics are loosely based on the as yet unbuilt Blaine County Public Safety Building in southern Idaho.
Based on the preliminary designs (which will most likely be tweaked), the new Shoshone County public safety building would cover 11,600 square feet and accommodate a 43-person staff. Areas found in the old building such as office spaces, evidence rooms, a dispatch center and front entry lobby are all present — but all of these areas would be drastically improved and expanded on in the new building.
An example of a major improvement is the shifting of the dispatch and communications room. The current structure has the communications room set as the heart of the building. It’s from here where dispatchers not only handle 911 calls and dispatch emergency personnel, but also control the doors of the attached jail and have a direct look into the intake area. In the new proposed building design, communications will no longer have to handle jail duties, as the jail section would be completely controlled by a separate control room.
Proposed areas in the new Sheriff’s Office side that aren’t in the old building include a K-9 holding area, additional storage rooms for different types of evidence and gear, a community meeting room, OSHA-compliant bathrooms and locker rooms for men and women on the staff, and much more.
The other side of the structure would be designated for the new jail areas. The new jail would come equipped with 100 beds and utilize a pod system similar to the design of the Kootenai County Jail’s most recent expansion (partial two-stories).
New features that are not present in the current building include a juvenile holding area, dedicated separate cell blocks for men and women, several intake rooms (one padded), a command center to control most of the doors, and much more.
As for a location to build the new structure, the county has its eye on land that sits along north Frontage Road and the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes next to Spunstrand Inc.’s Factory Plant. While this location is the favorite one at this time, it has not been made official.
Aside from a few minor suggestions involving office space placement and jail layout, SCSO leadership were pleased with the presentation.
Sheriff Mike Gunderson has made the case for some time now that Shoshone County is in desperate need of a new public safety building, due in most part to the decrepit state of the current building.
Originally built in the 1970s as a used car lot, the repurposed SCSO building and jail is much smaller in comparison to neighboring facilities (such as the Kootenai County Jail) and lacks several modern upgrades.
A nearly 40-page report by PLI Inc. that was presented to the county earlier this year showed major deficiencies with the current building, such as severe structural problems and an outdated and unsafe jail design.
For those who wish to see the full assessment on the current building from PLI Inc., a copy can be obtained from the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office or the Shoshone County Board of County Commissioners in the courthouse.
If SCSO continues to push for a new facility, the plan is to have a bond proposal on the ballot this November.
Specific costs have not been released at this time, as the actual makeup of the building is still being discussed, but Gunderson strongly believes that with an increase in the number of open beds and cells a new facility would bring, it would open up a new line of revenue for the county.
“One of the things the assessment does bring out is with building a facility, we can generate revenue for the taxpayers of Shoshone County.”
Gunderson plans to make an agreement with the Idaho Department of Corrections that would allocate a certain number of beds to state and federal inmates. This deal would bring in $75 per bed to the county, regardless of if the bed was being filled or not.