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Middle River Regional Jail in Verona.

With the conclusion of an expansion study, Middle River Regional Jail is on track for an upgrade.

But not without approval first.

During Wednesday’s Rockingham County Board of Supervisors meeting, County Administrator Stephen King will discuss the possible expansion of the Verona jail, which is nearing capacity.

King said Middle River has a capacity of 925 inmates. According to a press release from the jail, there are 834 inmates in custody as of Dec. 4.

Middle River houses inmates from Harrisonburg, Staunton and Waynesboro, as well as Rockingham and Augusta counties. King said MRRJ used to rent out beds to Page County, but discontinued that service.

With the jail filling up, the Middle River Regional Jail Authority began looking into an expansion study in early 2019.

During an interview Monday, King said the MRRJ Authority has an obligation to properly house inmates and space is what the jail needs.

“The goal is to get 400 beds permitted,” King said.

Based on the MRRJ needs assessment and facility planning study completed by Moseley Architects, there are three different options being considered for the expansion.

The first option would allow for 400 beds and room to add an additional 400, creating a total of 800 new beds.

King said the first option was the most costly, coming in at a total construction cost of $96.5 million.

The second option would be a phased-out approach from the first option, King said, adding the needed 400 beds. Total construction cost is estimated at $58.4 million.

The final and least expensive option is constructing a separate building for community service work. Total cost is estimated at $40 million.

King said each option would include modifications to the existing building to allow for warehouse storage space and mental-health pods.

If approved by the General Assembly, King said the state will contribute 25% of the expansion cost.

“It’ll be three years before anything is complete,” he said.

Based on the proposed project schedule, construction plans could be approved by July 2022 and inmates could be housed by December 2023.

King said for the purpose of Wednesday’s Supervisors meeting, it will give a chance for the jail authority to explain the available options and get input.

The expansion talks come during a time when the jail is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

According to a press release on Dec. 4, MRRJ coordinated with the Central Shenandoah Health District to conduct COVID-19 re-testing for inmates and staff on Friday. As of Nov. 25, 308 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.

A total of 53 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since Nov. 13.

Contact Jessica Wetzler at 574-6279 or jwetzler@dnronline.com. Follow Jessica on Twitter @wetzler_jessica

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