Jail expansion right on schedule

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Al Key/DRC
A construction worker stacks cinder blocks at the site of the Denton County Jail expansion project Friday on East McKinney Street in Denton.
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The $30 million expansion of the Denton County Jail that broke ground one year ago is right on track with construction, officials said.

Jake Payne, the project superintendent with Satterfield and Pontikes Construction, said the 384-bed, 87,000-square-foot addition should be ready for business by September if everything continues according to plan.

Topping off was completed last August, providing construction crews the protection needed to work through the fall and winter months. Payne said they didn’t see any setbacks from last year’s ice storm because bad weather days were already factored in.

Roy Davenport, assistant chief deputy with the Denton County Sheriff’s Office, said the four-level jail will include beds for dormitory units, double-occupancy cells and single-occupancy cells. In addition to the new beds, medical and dental facilities will be on site to treat inmates in-house without the need to transport them to other locations.

“The infirmary will house four beds,” he said. “In addition, we will have 24 single-occupancy cells to house inmates that need more long-term care.”

Davenport said the jail is being constructed to house the highest security inmates. Even high-risk inmates, he said, could earn the chance to be housed in the open dormitory-type setting.

“There will be a screening process and there will be evaluations to determine the proper housing for each individual’s need,” he said.

Referring to the Denton County Jail as a “small community of 1,100,” Davenport said the open cells are the most cost-efficient and will provide for overall better security within the building’s design.

The design includes separate access for maintenance crews, with an outer and inner wall between the crews and the inmates being housed, officials said.

While Davenport describes himself as a “nuts and bolts security guy,” he said the design and construction of the new facility will have a professional, businesslike look, and natural sunlight will be visible throughout the jail.

“There has been little design variation since the overall start of the project a year ago,” Davenport said. “HDR [the architecture firm overseeing the project] and Satterfield and Pontikes have done an outstanding job implementing modern technologies in the design.”

Officials are pleased the two companies were able to maintain a slick look from the outside without having to interfere with any security standards required by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

The building will allow the county to abandon four wooden barracks built in the early 1990s for housing the county’s additional inmates, and will provide room for growth.

In addition, the jail, located near Woodrow Lane and McKinney Street, will sit at a 15-degree angle in order to have an “express corridor” between the main jail, pretrial and expansion facilities to ease the movement of inmates. Currently, inmates must be bused in vans from one place to another.

Officials hope to begin construction on the next phase within a few years.

“We will be roughly half-full when some of our inmates and staff are moved here, but we designed this with the mindset of growth and hopefully it will last until our next phase is complete,” Davenport said.

Satterfield and Pontikes was approved by Denton County commissioners in December 2012 to construct phase one of the jail expansion. Some past projects completed by the Irving-based construction firm include the Collin County Detention Center and the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Garland Crime Lab.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews


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