YORKVILLE – A project that would help restore educational programs for Kendall County Jail inmates that were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic is set to go before the Kendall County Board during their meeting next week.
County officials said during a Thursday, July 30 facilities management committee of the whole meeting that administrators have been discussing how to spend roughly $1 million in federal CARES Act pandemic relief funding. The State of Illinois awarded the CARES Act Funding to the county along with other state communities of less than 500,000.
One of the projects under consideration for CARES Act funding by county officials is a multi-purpose room renovation within the County Jail, which is estimated to cost a total of $240,000. A condition of the CARES Act funding is that the county must spend the funds by the end of the year.
Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird said the jail as a whole wasn’t designed to have a lot of social distancing in learning areas. However, he said, the jail does have a multi-purpose room with knee walls that could be the site for some inmate classes – but a big problem for holding classes in that space currently is distractions.
“So we wanted to build the walls up and then we can continue to use the current multipurpose room for the training that we are starting to bring back,” Baird said.
Baird said the project would help the sheriff's office continue to expand current inmate educational programs.
“And I feel it’s important to continue that … to help reduce recidivism and give people opportunities,” Baird said.
Kendall County Board member Matt Kellogg, who also heads the facilities management committee for the county, said a design from Dewberry Engineers Inc. is being worked on and would cost about $48,000.
Jim Smiley, facilities management director for the county, said it's going to take a few weeks to put the plan together, have the project go out for bid, get the prices together and get the recommended bid approved by the County Board.
“And with the construction timeline, that will be somewhat accelerated too,” Smiley said.
County Administrator Scott Koeppel said he thought the jail multi-purpose room project was a good candidate for using CARES Act money because the jail has not been able to have inmate programs as they normally would soley due to the pandemic. He said this project was not something that was in the county's budget at all and the reason why the jail can’t have these programs is because they can’t social distance properly.
“So if we can make these changes, that’s something where we can operate as we normally would have,“ Koeppel said.
Koeppel said the county would have to get the project done, send receipts for it to the state and provide proof that the project was paid through the general ledger to the third party contractor that the state hired. Then, he said, the state processes it and sends the funds to the county. He said that would all need to get done before Dec. 31.
“The faster we could do it, the better,” Koeppel said.
The Kendall County Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4.
Meanwhile, Kellogg said there are also some secondary projects in the works that would also be spent using CARES Act money, including some that would address social distancing within courtrooms at the Kendall County Courthouse. He said there's more coming regarding those specific projects.
“We’re not at a point where we know numbers or anything to present to everybody, but just know that some of that CARES Act money is going to need to be spent at the courthouse for that social distancing aspect,” Kellogg said.
Koeppel said the courts are already behind with jury trials due to the pandemic and no jury trials being held at the courthouse during stay-at-home orders and building closures for nonessential business. He said the courts now have been able to have one jury trial at a time with some lifted restrictions ever since.
“Which is hard enough when you’re operating normally, but we’re also playing catch up," Koeppel said. "So these are very needed projects so that we can have multiple jury trials at once.”
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