Metro-East News

Jail renovation remains part of county’s plan

Even though St. Clair County voters rejected a sales tax hike last year to pay for a jail renovation, the project remains on the radar screen for the county’s Public Building Commission.

St. Clair County’s Public Building Commission on Thursday approved a new 5-year capital improvement plan, which includes cost estimates for $51.5 million worth possible projects to carry out around county facilities. The previous plan expired in 2013.

“These are things to let the commission know these are improvements that could or should be done. It doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to do them,” said Jim Brede, director of buildings for the PBC.

Included in the plan is $37 million for a jail addition and renovations. Voters previously rejected a sales tax hike that would have allowed the county to carry out a $40 million jail improvement project.

“Even though the voters said no to that, it’s still an issue we have to face one of these days,” Brede said.

Brede added the five-year plan helps project future costs.

“Somewhere we have overcrowding, somewhere are infrastructure that is failing, or plumbing (issues) over there. All of that is just that old,” Brede said. “I could patch it as much as I can, but there’s a point where you have to rip out and replace.”

The Public Building Commission also plans to annually update the capital improvement plan and make it into a rolling document, said Sue Schmidt, financial analyst for the county.

Schmidt added when the county held bond rating discussions with Standard & Poor’s, county officials reiterated jail renovations are not scheduled at this point.

Also included in the five-year plan are estimates for putting in a new window system at the St. Clair County Courthouse for $3 million, and a $1 million renovation of a wing of courtrooms.

Brede said the county is looking to update the seals of the single pane windows as well as install energy efficient windows to help lead to utility cost savings.

“These are projects we’re always looking at doing,” Brede said. “Glass seals get old and have to be updated and replaced.”

“Our buildings are all 40 or 45 years old and will get more expensive to maintain,” Brede added.

Courtrooms that need to be renovated are where felony cases are held, Brede said.

“We need more holding cells there,” Brede said. “There’s a lot of safety things we need to build into it.”

There also are smaller projects including estimates for HVAC system replacements, paving a parking lot at the jail, tile replacement and a roof replacement at the juvenile detention center, as well as a parking lot rehabilitation at MidAmerica airport.

Brede said the county evaluates building needs every year to determine the biggest priorities, possible liabilities and savings.

“We always re-look at it,” Brede said. “As things get older, things tend to pop-up quick. It’s just going to be a fluctuating program.”

Contact reporter Joseph Bustos at or 618-239-2451. Follow him on Twitter: @JoeBReporter.