Construction continues in Sheriff’s Office complex

The 29 acres in north Lafayette on which Sheriff Mike Neustrom and others ceremonially broke ground in May 2012 is no longer empty pasture.

More than one year later, dirt work, masonry, carpentry and electrical construction workers under primary contractor Ratcliff Construction Company of Alexandria are making manifest the plans that Grace & Hebert Architects envisioned for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Complex.

By February, the $24 million project should almost be complete, with consolidation beginning of some of the sheriff’s divisions now spread across Lafayette, said Rob Reardon, Lafayette Parish director of corrections.

In the past year, construction workers under primary contract Ratcliff Construction of Alexandria have erected the complex’s massive buildings, which range from more than 26,700 to 51,000 square feet.

Reardon said Ratcliff erected windowless “tilt-up” concrete walls that should last decades, with roofs that allow in sunlight from above for work-release and minimum-security inmates.

“It’s a cheaper, faster way to build,” Reardon said. “The offenders can’t damage them (the walls). They’re going to be here 100 years.”

The complex sits on acreage bordered by West Willow Street, North Pat Street, Hebert Road and Raggio Road in a sparsely populated section of Lafayette. Included at the site, away from the buildings, is a grove of trees that will become a public park, said Julio Naudin, assistant to Neustrom.

The Sheriff’s Office purchased the land in 2009. Construction was to be completed July 4, but was pushed back because of abundant rain that fell this past spring, Reardon said.

Sgt. Kenny Benoit, who leads the Sheriff’s Office transition team, said Ratcliff is scheduled to hand over the keys to the complex in early October. He said there will be one inmate housing building that will not be completed.

Benoit said inmates will begin in October completing minor construction and landscaping chores, which he said is an effort to keep down costs, while work continues on the building that by then will be “shelled out.”

Before architects drew up plans for the complex, Reardon and Capt. Colby Barbier spent many days looking at other corrections facilities throughout the country. Reardon said efforts were made to incorporate the latest concepts from the Institute of Corrections, a division of the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

In addition to inmate housing, the complex also will feature a center for law enforcement training. The Professional Development Center also will house the video visitation rooms that link inmates to their families, other loved ones and friends.

The project was financed with a $21 million bond issue, with the some funding coming from Sheriff’s Office reserves.

A Sheriff’s Office newsletter detailing the months since construction started in 2012, including the weather delays, can be found at lafayettesheriff.com. Click on Corrections tab, then scroll to the bottom and click on New Public Safety Complex tab.