Bidding process begins for jail

September 19, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - More than 20 prospective contractors turned out this week at the Eastern Regional Jail for a pre-bid conference on a new prison for the Eastern Panhandle.

The Eastern Regional Jail opened in 1988, but in just nine years it has become overcrowded and was not well designed in the first place, according to Steven Canterbury, executive director of the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority.

"It's going to be like going from Mayberry to Star Trek," Canterbury remarked Thursday about the design for the new jail. Designed by ZMM/CRA Ltd. of Charleston, he said the new design is being used for regional jails around the state.


Canterbury said the authority will have the bids back by the middle of next month. He predicted the review process will be short and contracts could be announced by the end of October.

The existing jail was built for 120 prisoners, but most of the cells are now double-bunked. Canterbury estimated the daily population averages more than 200. The new jail will have 192 beds with the ability to double-bunk up to 60 percent of the cells.

Similar facilities around the state have cost approximately $15 million, according to Canterbury. The money for the new prison has already been allocated, he added.

"We're hopeful we can have this thing finished by the summer of 1999," Canterbury said. The jail will be located behind the existing facility along W.Va. 9.

In the meantime, Canterbury said the state legislature wants a comprehensive list of options for the existing jail once the new one opens. He said it could become a jail for low-risk offenders and prisoners on work release.

Other options include making it into a juvenile detention center or possibly a federal facility. Canterbury said, however, "it would need a lot of work to get it situated for juveniles."

One problem is exposed ductwork and pipes that could be damaged or turned into weapons, he explained. As for the federal government, he said, options include a prison for illegal immigrants, or a "step-down" facility for prisoners nearing release.

Land issues for the prison are almost cleared up, he said. While the jail needs more than 12 acres, 3.8 of those belong to the Continental Brick Co. He said the appraised value of the land was about $65,000 and the authority offered the company a higher figure, but Continental Brick turned it down.

"We decided we would go through the condemnation process and take it by eminent domain," Canterbury explained. The authority went to court and now has "feasible title" to the land, but the brick company has not been compensated yet.

Even though that issue has not been resolved, the authority does have the title and can go ahead with construction. Canterbury said site work could begin shortly after the contracts are awarded.

Building regional jails doesn't cost most taxpayers anything, according to Canterbury. The authority issues bonds paid off through a $40 fee assessed to anyone who breaks a law in the state.

"If you don't break the law, none of your money goes to building jails," he said.

Operations are another matter. The authority charges $38 a day per inmate, which is usually paid by the counties served by the regional jails. Still, he said he believes that's the lowest of any state.

The Herald-Mail Articles