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story.lead_photo.caption Sheriff John Wheeler talks about the interstitial space in the bottom level of the Cole County Jail complex and the possibility of adding pods to the facility. It was constructed with the ability to be able to install the pre-constructed pods to add beds and other necessary space. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

The Cole County Commission agreed Tuesday that Sheriff John Wheeler should look into the possibility of expanding areas at the Cole County Jail.

Wheeler told commissioners Tuesday he will meet with The Architects Alliance to discuss possible uses for an area of the jail originally created for future growth.

Cole County voters in August 2007 approved a law enforcement sales tax to construct an 180-bed jail, which opened in 2011. During construction of the jail from 2008-11, county commissioners approved adding an "interstitial floor."

Located below the jail floor that is currently open, the still-empty interstitial floor has 27,000 square feet above the jail parking garage along East McCarty Street, across from Jefferson City Hall and the Jefferson City Police Department. It accounted for $2 million of the $28 million project cost and could be used to house more cells or programs such as work-release prisoners.

An assessment would look at possible uses for the floor, what it would cost to make them a reality, and what it would cost to staff potential uses.

The cost for the study would be more than $50,000, and the Sheriff's Department would pay for out of its contingency fund, Wheeler said.

"We also want to look at a new video courtroom because the one we currently have needs improvements," Wheeler said. "We also would like to increase the size of our training room on the main floor of the building."

"The most important thing coming out of this would be the cost estimate for the construction," Cary Gampher, of The Architects Alliance added.

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Old health department building still for sale

Also Tuesday, commissioners decided the county needs to step up efforts to sell the old Cole County Health Department building.

Since the commission approved selling the building in February, a few potential buyers have gone through the facility on Industrial Drive, but none have led to a sale, Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman said.

The 7,700-square-foot building has been vacant since the Health Department moved to its current location on West Truman Boulevard in 2018.

The county paid nearly $400,000 for the Industrial Drive facility in 1997, then spent more than $180,000 to prepare it for opening in 1999. They have been telling potential buyers the county is asking $250,000 for the building, Bushman said.

Commissioners said they will discuss the issue more during a closed session meeting Jan. 19. Real estate matters may be discussed in closed session under the state's Sunshine Law.

Part-time custodial help approved

Also Tuesday, commissioners approved an increase in hourly pay for part-time custodial workers to help clean and maintain county buildings.

The part-time pay will go from $12.50 to $17.05 per hour. There could be a maximum of 1,100 part-time hours, but each person would be able to work a maximum of 29 hours a week.

Maintenance Director Greg Camp said as of Tuesday he was down one-and-a-half positions, but it's increasingly harder to find people to fill custodial and maintenance positions. The starting pay for full-time positions ranges from $13.50 to $15.50 per hour.

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