I ended part one with the emergence of then Pascagoula Mayor Robbie Maxwell and Scott Walker touting a cheaper jail solution to an incomplete architectural jail design which had not yet been bid at the time Walker and Maxwell appeared before the County Board of Sups. Remember folks this went down in January 2011, the start of an election year. Maxwell Walker must have had a hard time getting traction for David Deaton and Richard Rula of Hemphill, two of the three parties behind Southeastern Composites because a few months later the now disgraced Chris Epps appeared before the County Board of Supervisors touting a hub and spoke prison design of the type Deaton had experience in previously constructing in a “spoke” dome county jail for Tishomingo County in 2006, then as President of a company called Composite Building Systems. Today David Dean Deaton II is no longer associated with the company except as registered agent, where he is listed on the Mississippi Secretary of State database as Dean Deaton.
So folks, let’s start a timeline:
- January 24, 2011 – Maxwell Walker appear at Board of Supervisors meeting touting cheaper alternative to a jail which was still in the design phase on behalf of a new client, which is owned by Richard Rula of Hemphill Construction and David Deaton.
- March 14, 2011 – Scott Walker and David Deaton of Southeastern Composites form Gulf Coast Consultants LLC.
- April 2011 – MDOC Executive Director Chris Epps appears before the Jackson County Board of Supervisors touting the design being pushed by Maxwell-Walker Consultants.
- April 16, 2011 – OpEd column written by Supervisor Tommy Brodnax appears in the Mississippi Press under the title “Commissioner Epps should butt out of jail plans” Broadnax points the finger squarely at Maxwell Walker in this very public letter to then Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour:
It appears Mr. Epps is being influenced into this project by Maxwell and Walker consulting of Pascagoula.
His intervention has caused a lengthy delay in this project. Since this is an election year, his propaganda has caused the board to hire an independent company to compare the composite pod design with the conventional concrete design of Pryor and Morrow.
- April 23, 2011 – Epps fires back in a OpEd letter to the Mississippi Press maintaining he is from the government and is only around to help.
- September 12, 2011 – Jackson County Board of Supervisors hears from Yates Construction on the two competing designs – Southeastern Composites Hub and Spoke Dome design and Pryor and Morrows traditional brick and mortar design. Yates produces cost estimates which indicate Southeastern Composites would be the cheaper jail to build. This sets the stage for an open competition for jail design despite the fact the county had previously hired and paid Pryor and Morrows close to $1,000,000 for their work.
Something else happened in this time period and that was the 2011 party primary elections. Supervisor Tommy Broadnax, who had opposed the Maxwell Walker attempts to redo the prison’s design was defeated by Troy Ross in District Four. By July 2012 the Board was hearing from four architectural firms and April Havens was there to give the official word:
The board heard from Virginia-based PB-Heery Americas Inc.; Missouri-based Goldberg, Sullivan and McCrerey Architects & Planners; Florida-based Clemons, Rutherford & Associates Inc.; and Ocean Springs-based Kaybeau Development LLC:
On Tuesday, Goldberg, Sullivan and McCrerey Architects & Planners pitched modular steel cells that can be stacked two or four cells high upon a deep foundation, an option that representatives touted and compact, lightweight, hygienic, flexible in design and less expensive.
Lawrence Goldberg said he could have the project ready for bid within six weeks and that construction would take about 12 months.
The total cost — including furniture, fixtures and equipment — would be $29.5 million to $30 million, he said.
Goldberg’s option would include individual two- or four-man cells with a small amount of dormitory space.
And this is where I personally get lost. Was Jackson County building a Supermax prison to house county inmates or was it building a county jail the difference between the two being significant. Most county jails do not need a majority of their cells to be of the Supermax variety where steel cells hold one or two inmates designed to minimize contact with corrections officers. For prison trustees and the like dormitory type facilities are much cheaper to build.
- August 20, 2012 – Supervisors vote 4-1 to end the Pryor and Morrows contract, despite having previously paid them $1.2 million for design work and the rationale was cost savings on the come:
The county has spent $1.2 million on the Pryor and Morrow design so far, Supervisor Melton Harris Jr. said, but he noted the county expects to save “several million” by constructing a different design.
And the political dynamic changed when Supervisor Barry Cumbest flip-flopped:
Mangum and Supervisor Barry Cumbest originally voted against allowing new proposals, saying they supported Pryor and Morrow’s design and didn’t want to waste time.
Cumbest said he has since changed his mind after learning that there are designs available that will better suit the needs of the jail personnel and come at a better price.
“I just began to see that I was wrong,” Cumbest said. “The more I looked at it, the more I was compelled to switch directions.”
And of course the gang already knew who they wanted to design the jail when they let Pryor and Morrow go:
Supervisors McKay, Harris, Ross and Cumbest said Monday that they are on the same page in terms of which company to seek out, but they could not name the company.
Ross noted that he likes the idea of individually locking cells, which would help jail personnel manage inmates.
Let’s conclude this installment with an accounting of the amount spent through August 2012:
Pryor and Morrow: Design Fees – $1,200,000
Changing architects marks the second event we’ll need to examine in more detail but there was a third “drill down event” to come which sheds even more light on the five year saga of building a Mississippi County Jail. This event is the fodder for part three.