The Sebastian County Quorum Court agreed during a special meeting Tuesday to renovate the Sheriff's Office building to accommodate 102 beds and move the Sheriff's Office to a different location as a way to combat overcrowding in the Detention Center.

Justices of the peace voted for the project that will add 94 minimum security, dormitory style and eight maximum security beds. The current bed capacity at the detention center is 356.

The Sheriff's Office would be moved to the Sebastian County emergency operations center at 8400 S. Zero Street. The building would accommodate co-locating the Sheriff's Office with the emergency operations center and the Fort Smith Police Department Training Center.

"Some of you have seen that (emergency operations center), I think," County Judge David Hudson said. "... And currently, there's certain offices and classrooms there that the Fort Smith Police Department Training Center utilizes. That is a relationship we have with the city of Fort Smith via a local agreement, and they reimburse some of the operating cost on that building, averaging about $26,000 a year."

In a memo addressed to the Quorum Court that was included in the meeting packet, Hudson said additional jail expansion options have been reviewed to supplement the 2016 jail report that addressed renovation cost of the existing jail and projected expansion cost to add another 160 beds. This jail construction cost estimate was based on a "maximum security" construction standard.

The 2017 jail expansion report, in contrast, is based on a "minimum security" construction standard, which reduces the cost. Two additional options for jail expansion, which are based on "minimum security" type construction and occupancy by women, have been developed by architectural preliminary design and construction manager pricing from local subcontractors and the local market.

"... So there's quite a bit of validity to the numbers," Hudson said. "Of course, you don't know numbers until the design is finished, and it's put out on the market, and you take bids."

The cost to move the sheriff's offices and renovate the existing Sheriff's Office building to minimum security beds was estimated to be an amount exceeding $2.8 million. The cost includes projected construction and architect/engineer fees. 

The other option the memo outlined was to remodel the Butler & Cook building in Fort Smith. In an article previously published in the Times Record, Hudson said the building contains Sheriff’s Office and jail operational records, juvenile detention center classrooms, and potential space that could be converted into minimum security jail cells. This option would have added 106 beds, with 96 being dormitory style and the remaining 10 being maximum security. It would have cost an estimated amount exceeding $2.3 million. 

In a section marked "capital construction funding," the memo states capital financing is proposed from 11 percent county sales tax funds, and using existing jail capital earmarked funds.

During the discussion, District 13 JP Rick Reedy asked County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck which structure, or option, would be more suitable. Hollenbeck responded he believed there are many benefits to converting the Sheriff's Office.

"Also, ... being out there off of Massard (Road), it's closer to the service area that we provide," Hollenbeck said. "There are so many advantages. I was talking to someone a few minutes ago about the gas and oil driving back and forth ... to the liability of running lights and sirens trying to get out of the city to answer an emergency call. How do you calculate that risk? So you try to mitigate the possible risk, and being out there with the service area certainly would benefit for us. ..."

The Sebastian County Quorum Court will next meet in a special meeting Nov. 14 at 6 p.m.