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Commission delays jail site decision

Spokane County commissioners delayed until next year the decision of where to build a new jail, saying they want to consider more options and get a better idea of costs. The real question, though, is whether they should build vertically or horizontally.

Voters won’t be asked to approve bonds for the jail before next August, county Board Chairman Todd Mielke said Tuesday.

The biggest questions involve design and costs. A vertical structure, or tower, could be built on less property and located near the current jail and courthouse campus.

County officials settled on the courthouse site in 2008, but have since postponed placing the bond issue before voters as cost estimates mounted. Tuesday they took a step back to revisit the siting plan.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said current construction cost estimates for the tower and other buildings in the courthouse complex are $265 million, compared to $229 million for a horizontal structure built elsewhere. With the interest to pay off the bonds on the higher amount, the total difference is about $54 million between the two designs.

If the jail reaches capacity sooner than expected, a second tower would have to be the same size as the first tower and would cost an estimated $146 million; expansions of a horizontal jail could be built in pods of $21 million each, or about $106 million to have the same capacity as the second tower, Knezovich said.

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