LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - The Lawton city council addressed complaints that the jail in the new public safety complex won't have as many jail cells as they originally planned. The council talked about how the plans presented at the last city council meeting showed a capacity of 104 inmates, with 16 additional spots that could be created by using the holding cells and medical center. But that's still far fewer than the 150 that was requested. The current police station has space for 70, which, according to the police chief, is constantly full.
Councilman Keith Jackson put this item on the agenda to see what they could possibly do to add to that number, and if there is the money to even do it.
The reason for the smaller jail size was money.
In the initial planning of the complex, they had the cost at $250 per square foot for the jail. But when the contractor came in to work on the design, they thought $250 was a little light. They did a re-evaluation, and they came up with $380 per square foot. That's when the jail started shrinking.
"Just 100 beds is not enough," said Jackson.
Jackson questioned the latest design of the new public safety complex.
"I'm still discouraged by it," said Jackson. "I'm still asking the city manager to take a harder look at the construction, or the design and construction to see if we can squeeze out some more money to enlarge the size of the jail."
But after looking at the funding, Lawton City Manager Jerry Ihler says it doesn't look possible.
"Because of the overall costs of the project, the anticipated costs based on the architect's preliminary estimate, we weren't able to get everything into the project that we had hoped," said Ihler.
Building a larger jail pod or adding to the one they have planned on building would add $3 to $6 million dollars to the project that isn't in the CIP budget.
Jackson says he doesn't want to see the department move into the new facility, and immediately reach capacity, again.
During tonight's discussion, Councilman Jay Burk argued that wanting a larger jail instead of finding ways to get people out of jail quicker isn't cost-effective.
"You can build a 500 man jail and you can fill it up with 500 people but you can't afford to keep it," said Burk. "And we can't afford the 70 man jail we have now."
No decision was made Tuesday night if the council wants to explore ways to grow the new jail. Jackson says the design isn't final, and does have a chance to change before going to the council for final approval.