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Crews complete '99 percent' of construction on DeKalb County Jail expansion

Expansion on track for May 17 building dedication, despite last minute fixes

SYCAMORE – As construction on DeKalb County Jail’s $35 million expansion project nears completion, the County Public Building Commission discussed the final phase during its regular meeting Tuesday morning.

“We’re almost there,” County Administrator Gary Hanson said.

About $31 million, or 89 percent, of the $35 million budgeted for the project has been spent, Hanson said.

Connie Fierke, superintendent of Gilbane, one of the contractors, said 99 percent of construction was completed as of Feb. 28.

“Very few workers remain on-site,” she said.

Fierke went on to say the jail’s security system passed its initial check, and furniture will start to be delivered April 2. City and state inspectors continue to complete their work, and staff’s training is near completion.

“We don’t know what we don’t know until we have occupants,” said Mike Larson, a member of the building commission.

As the meeting’s attendees viewed photos of progress made in the past month, they remarked on the jail’s “bright” appearance.

“That’s the idea,” Chief of Corrections Joyce Klein said.

Grays, whites and beiges dominate the communal areas and entrance of the jail.

The commission approved an additional $35,637.39 to cover everything from TV revisions – changing to a “hotel system” rather than a box per TV; installing a sink in the basement level on a request from the plumbing inspector; and changing out incorrect six-person detention tables.

The group did not reach a resolution on a set of valves already installed that control water flow in inmates’ cells, which the plumbing inspector determined contained traces of lead. County officials had specified that the valves be brass, and be free of lead.

Switching out the brass valves with stainless steel ones was discussed, but would be more expensive. Commission members agreed that, moving forward, they will work with the contractors to determine whose responsibility it was that the valves were already installed, and whether costs to replace them can be shared.

The expansion remains on track ahead of a building dedication at 12:30 p.m. May 17, and officials will guide public tours after the event.

Construction began in June 2016. The expansion will increase the jail’s capacity to 153, solving a decades-old overcrowding problem. The jail will feature new cells, isolation rooms, a kitchen and medical facilities. This is the jail’s first renovation since it was built in 1980, and the space will increase from 46,481 square feet in 1980 to 83,630 square feet.

The current jail’s average daily inmate population was 141 at the end of 2017 – the highest in the jail’s history. In 2016, the average inmate population was 113, Klein said.

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