The action came after years of debate over whether the old jail at the corner of George and Liberty streets should be torn down.
The county commission has voted twice to tear down the jail, but County Commission President Rusty Morgan brought up the idea last Thursday of keeping the jail and saying some federal grant money might be available to help pay for the renovation.
The commissioners have looked at various ways of creating more government office space, and they believe the old jail might help meet the need.
Corliss said the foundation of the building and its walls are in good shape and said the structure is "quite sound."
Much of the work to transform the jail into office space would involve work like installing a new heating system, new wiring and deciding what to do with the jail cells, Corliss said.
Corliss and Commissioner Dale Manuel said they saw last week's decision to hire an architect as a move to save the jail.
Commissioner Jane Tabb, who voted to tear down the jail in 2003, said last week she voted in favor of hiring the architect so the issue could be examined further. But Tabb said she believes the commission could be reconsidering the fate of the jail if the renovation cost "knocks us out of the water."
Tabb declined Sunday to say if she thinks $1.6 million would be a reasonable renovation cost for the jail. Tabb said she would have to see how much office space could be created at that cost before making any comment.
Tabb said she wants to see how the renovated jail would fit into bigger plans to create government office space downtown.
"It's part of a bigger picture and that's why it's hard to say yes or no," Tabb said.