Middle River Regional Jail moves forward with expansion plan that could cost as much as $96m

The design for “Option A'” of an expansion to Middle River Regional Jail, as drawn by Moseley Architects, shows the potential for additional expansions in the future. (The rendering was part of Moseley’s Dec. 3 presentation to the jail authority’s board.)

By Sergio Ossorio, contributor

The Middle River Regional Jail Authority Board is moving toward adding 400 beds and voted to submit to the state the most aggressive expansion design — a more than $96 million renovation that would add a new medical area and renovate the kitchen, mental health center and the dormitory. 

The Jail Authority Board approved a resolution earlier this month at its Dec. 3 meeting  authorizing the submission of the Community Based Corrections Plan, said Jeffery Newton, superintendent of the Middle River Regional Jail. As part of that resolution, the board selected Option A to submit.  

With addition of 400 beds, the total project expansion would cost nearly a quarter-million dollars per bed, according to the Dec. 3 needs assessment and planning study conducted by the architecture firm the board hired. 

Moseley Architects, the firm  hired earlier this yearhad suggested three options for expansion: 

  • Option A will cost $96,531,639 for the renovations to the existing facilities, as well as the addition of the new inmate medical clinic, laundry and a warehouse/maintenance building. The plan also allows for the 400-bed dormitory to be doubled in size in the future. 
  • Option B would cost $58,441,761 for similar renovations and expansions but doesn’t allow for an expansion from 400 to 800 beds later without building onto the facility. 
  • The third plan, Option C, would include renovations to the lobby, kitchen, mental health clinic and storage and provide for 200 more beds. The estimated total costs for Plan C is $40,033,233.

The 12-year-old jail houses inmates from Augusta County, Waynesboro, Staunton, Rockingham County and Harrisonburg, which share the operations costs. The jail currently has a capacity of 902 inmates. 

The board, however, is moving swiftly but deliberately to expand that capacity. 

To follow-up on the Middle River Regional Jail Authority Board’s Dec. 3 meeting, board members on Tuesday discussed financial challenges and how the authority’s budget is impacted by the prospective expansion. 

“No decision has been made to expand the current physical plant of the Middle River Regional Jail,” Newton said in an email to The Citizen. “The Authority has authorized the submission of a Community Based Corrections Plan.”

The proposed plan must be submitted to the Virginia Board of Corrections by Dec. 31. Once the plan is submitted, it will be up for review. But, this does not mean the Middle River Regional Jail Authority is locked into that. The plan is subject to review and revision and could change in size and scope.

Before a jail can receive state funding, Virginia law requires it to submit a Community Based Corrections Plan to the Virginia Board of Corrections. This plan is comprised of a needs assessment and planning study, which the Jail Authority has hired Moseley Architects to develop. 

The Jail Authority Board expected to receive a draft of the plan from Moseley Architects by the end of the week.

“Mosely said they were going to have the submission completed by the 20th,” said Major Eric Young, Middle River Regional Jail’s director of administration. 

Bond Rating

Before the Middle River Regional Jail can begin any expansion, it must line up the funding. The Virginia Pooled Financing Program offered by the Virginia Resources Authority is one route, but in order for that loan to be processed, the jail must comply with one new addition to the process of jail expansion in Virginia: bond rating. 

Because the Virginia Resources Authority now requires regional jails to have a bond rating before they authorize financing for projects, there is more pressure placed on the Middle River Regional Jail’s budget. 

FY2020 Budget Update

Meanwhile, the group on Tuesday also reviewed other budgetary issues this fiscal year, chiefly overruns in its overtime budget. 

The jail had budgeted $350,000 but could end up spending $450,000 on overtime pay, the committee members said. 

Other unexpected costs in 2019 included replacing a washer that can’t be fixed for $19,676. And the prescription drugs budget was approved at $490,000, but now is expected to reach $603,975. 

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