Oklahoma County's decision to hire St. Louis architecture firm HOK to design its new jail/health facility sets the stage for officials to begin to narrow down where it should be built.
County commissioners' approval of HOK’s selection came as members of the Citizens Bond Oversight Advisory Board learned a 10th potential location for the jail is being offered by a governmental entity.
Officials now have two potential locations near Will Rogers World Airport to consider.
Most locations are within Oklahoma City. The latest involves 160 acres being offered by Oklahoma City's Airport Trust at 5201 S Meridian Ave.
Technically, local or state agencies have until next week to submit proposed locations for a new jail facility inside the county.
But this late in the process, both advisory board officials and commissioners believe the table is set for the board and HOK to work with Oklahoma County engineer Stacey Trumbo to begin narrowing down the list.
Some sites automatically will be jettisoned because of poor topography or because they lack needed electricity, natural gas or telecommunications infrastructure. Plus, at least one or two privately owned properties originally offered have attracted other potential buyers, said Brian Maughan, the commission's chairman.
"Some of them (remaining properties) could be a concern because of how far away they are from the courthouse, and others might have environmental issues, so the list could be quite a bit shorter before any really difficult decisions have to be made," Maughan said.
Experience mattered to board as it selected the jail's designer
Since then, county commissioners have set aside the use of $40 million in American Rescue Act Plan dollars to add a health facility to the jail's operation.
Steve Mason, chairman of the Citizens Bond Oversight Advisory Board, said members of his group concluded HOK was the most qualified out of the firms that offered to provide architectural and engineering services for the project because of past work it has done.
The company designed a 405,000-square-foot jail facility that houses a county sheriff's staff and 1,000 inmates in Nashville, Tennessee. The jail is connected with a courthouse and city hall using a civic plaza and public garden that functions as a gathering place.
It also includes a medical clinic, a dialysis center and a dental operatory, plus includes a 64-bed unit for individuals with serious and persistent mental illnesses near the jail’s booking area.
Co-locating those functions with the jail boosts its staff's ability to assess detainees’ physical, emotional and psychological needs at early stages of booking processes, HOK states as part of the project's description posted on its website.
"They have strong experience, and we trust them to help us design a great jail," Mason said Wednesday.
HOK employees 1,600 people across a network of 25 offices on three continents.
A contract between Oklahoma County and HOK, which would include the fee it would earn for its services, is being negotiated now. A request to HOK for comment went unanswered Wednesday.
The next task related to Oklahoma County's project is to write a request for proposals seeking a contractor to manage the process to design and then build the new jail.
Both Mason and Maughan said Wednesday they are excited to see the county's process moving forward.
"So far, there have been no delays and I am really excited about how well all this has gone," Maughan said.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: HOK selected to design Oklahoma County jail as location looks begin