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Work-release expansion plans get green light

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County officials will know early next year how much planned construction to expand the county’s work release program will cost taxpayers.

The Johnson County Commissioners approved letting a committee deciding what type of expansion is needed spend $4,500 to hire an architect.

The architect will create designs to both remodel the program’s current building and build a new one.

The architect will also give the committee estimates on how much the construction and operating costs would be, community corrections director Albert Hessman said.

County officials have talked about expanding the program for years, but the committee is looking into the expansion now as a way to stop overcrowding in the program and in the Johnson County jail and to improve the facility, which needs multiple repairs, Hessman said.

The expansion would allow local judges to sentence some offenders to the work release program, instead of sending them to the jail.

No timeline has been set for the expansion project, which would still need approval from the county before it could be built.

The architect should have designs and estimates early next year for how much it will cost to construct and run the larger facility, Hessman said.

To help pay for the expansion, Johnson County Community Corrections has saved $1 million during the past few years from fees offenders pay to be in the program, Hessman said.

The work release program is funded with daily fees paid by the people who stay at the facility. The program also receives funding from a state grant but does not receive any funding from the county’s general fund budget.

The $1 million is not enough to pay for a full expansion or remodeling the building, so the committee will have to decide where the rest of the money will come from, Hessman said.

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