By Sheryl Stanley
Cass County Commissioners along with some visitors got a behind-the-scenes tour of the recently completed renovations at the Cass County Jail last Friday.
Sheriff Jeff Weber led the group through the facility, highlighting the new booking and intake area and a new female cell block.
Representatives from TreanorHL, Kansas City, who provided architectural services and Turner Construction, Kansas City, general contractor for the project, were also on hand.
The sheriff’s office and jail have been in the Cass County Justice Center since its opening in September 2003. Prior to that, prisoners were kept in the old jail at 208 W. Pearl St. That building had a capacity of 72, although Weber said the average daily population (ADP) had been exceeding that for several years by the time it was closed.
When first opened, the current jail had a capacity of 136 beds and in the first year, 91 of those beds were used on average. However, as Cass County’s population grew from 88,000 in 2003 to the current estimate of 106,000, so did the population of the jail.
Usage numbers provided by the sheriff’s department indicate that for the last six years, the population of the jail has been steadily increasing, from 122 ADP in 2014 to 149 in 2019. The highest inmate count ever for a single day was 201 in 2018. Through the first quarter of this year, the ADP was 139.
“We house all types of criminals,” Weber said, adding that after 17 years of continuous service, the building needed to be rehabbed and cleaned.
In 2016, Cass County voters passed an extension of the Justice Center sales tax to fund renovations and upgrades throughout the facility.
“We are grateful to the public for recognizing our need and our obligation to house prisoners in a safe and healthy environment,” Weber said.
The first phase of the renovations added two court rooms on the third floor. The fourth floor remains unfinished and avail- able for future expansion needs.
The second phase started last fall and consisted of a buildout in the jail which added more space for processing inmates in the booking and intake area and a total of 62 new beds divided among minimum and maximum security areas for male and female prisoners and medical cells.
An additional project was added in response to the Covid-19 crisis creating a space where inmates could videoconference with their attorneys and the courts despite the shutdown.
Total costs for the renovations was $2.2 million.
“I am proud to say that we have delivered this project on time and on budget during a time of worldwide pandemic,” Weber said.
Following the renovations, Weber said, there are still two unfinished pods in the jail which could accommodate 48 more beds for future expansion.