Jail committee frustrated

Perceived lack of information brought to Commission’s attention

The committee tasked earlier this year by the County Commission to help determine the future of Platte County’s jail facility continues to question its very purpose and the Commissioners’ intent. One member of the jail committee — Dagmar Wood — brought her concerns directly to the Platte County Commission at its regular session Monday, questioning a request for qualifications (RFQ) that went out earlier this year. At its April 7 meeting, the Commission approved the RFQ — which outlined plans to potentially build an additional 150-bed facility — for engineering and architectural services for a potential jail expansion project. Wood questioned why the committee was even formed if the County was already set to move forward with the project and why the committee members had not been informed about this RFQ from the start. While Presiding Commissioner Jason Brown responded to her questions at the session — which otherwise involved routine County business — he and 2nd District Commissioner Duane Soper did Wood one better by coming to the jail committee meeting Monday night. “There are questions about this RFQ and what it is and what it means,” Brown told committee members. “If there has been any confusion on that, it was not the intention of the Sheriff’s Department or the Commission. This was all public information.” An RFQ, Soper said, is essentially a call for resumes. The firms submitted their qualifications, ensuring that should the project move into the actual planning phase, the architects would have the proper experience to handle the project. Soliciting and evaluating RFQs is a long process governed by state statute, according to Captain Erik Holland of the Sheriff’s Department and is not bound to the regular rules of locating the “lowest and best” service provider. At the RFQ’s closing in May, eight firms had submitted qualifications. A committee within the Sheriff’s Department reviewed the submittals and has narrowed the field to three firms, which will be notified this week and scheduled for interviews. The RFQ, the Commissioners said, was issued for several reasons. The federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) has several requirements but foremost is the need to segregate younger offenders from those over the age of 18. Currently, the Platte County Detention Center has no facilities to house 17-year-olds out of sight and sound of adult prisoners. So long as the County makes strides toward becoming fully PREA-compliant, such as soliciting RFQs, it stays within the letter of the federal law. Committee members Cory Ball and Wood said now they understood the need to continue forward movement, but their concern was with transparency. The document called for an “attractive 150-bed facility,” and they wondered what the committee’s job was if the Commissioners had already determined the County needed a 150-bed facility. “There are numbers in there, and I can kind of see how that can be misconstrued,” Brown said. “But the purpose of the RFQ is to make sure we don’t get a firm that has only built a facility for a couple of dozen prisoners.” Brown pointed out the request was approved in a public session, advertised in The Kansas City Star and that the RFQ itself is a public document.

Read the whole story in this week's issue of The Citizen.