KEARNEY — Buffalo County is working on a $4 million to $4.5 million plan to move the work-release program in a plan to ease crowding and boost security in the county jail.
The plan — labeled the 610 Project — revolves around the former Black Hills Energy building at 610 Central Ave. in south Kearney.
Buffalo County purchased the building in June 2021 for $1.5 million and plans to spend $2.5 million to $3 million subdividing and remodeling it to house work-release and the county’s adult and juvenile probation programs. Those programs currently operate out of separate facilities, so housing them in the Black Hills Energy building will consolidate them under a single roof.
In addition, moving the work release program will boost security in the jail and give the operations there a bit more breathing room, said Steve Gaasch, facilities director for Buffalo County.
“It helps further secure the jail,” Gaasch said about moving work-release to the Black Hills Energy building. Gaasch said the jail will be more secure because moving work-release there will reduce the likelihood for problems associated with checking work-release prisoners in and out, such as smuggling contraband into the jail.
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Consolidating adult and juvenile probation in the Black Hills Energy building could reduce staffing costs because fewer people will be necessary to oversee the operations, Gasch said.
The Black Hills Energy building encompasses about 25,000 square feet. In addition to subdividing the structure for work-release and probation, the 610 Project calls for construction of a couple of rooms for meetings or other county functions.
The county used the Black Hills Energy building in 2021 to conduct property valuation protests.
Gaasch said spending $4 million to $4.5 million converting the building might seem expensive, but expanding the county jail — capacity 205 — appeared to be cost-prohibitive. Federal stimulus money will cover about $2 million of the costs for the 610 Project.
The Buffalo County Board voted on Tuesday to hire the Norfolk firm Beckenhauer Construction to serve as construction manager. Under the construction manager at-risk agreement with Buffalo County, Beckenhauer will be paid 3% of the project’s cost, but nothing beyond a guaranteed maximum price.
Beckenhauer was the construction manager for Buffalo County’s new jail in 2007. The new courtrooms and courthouse remodel were part of the voter-approved jail project.
Gaasch said the 610 Project could begin in a few weeks if Beckenhauer and the county board can agree on the project’s maximum cost.
The maximum cost then could be approved by the board during one of its regular meetings.