Lee County looks to cap jail project at $18.5 million

This design rendering shows the footprint of the proposed Lee County Jail and sheriff’s department. The site at 240 E. Progress Drive sits on about 3 acres of county-owned land, and it’s already shaping up to be a much better option, for both cost and space.

DIXON –The county is looking to increase the cap it set for building a new jail to $18.5 million, but the sheriff would rather have a bigger buffer when costs come in. The Lee County Board plans to vote on a resolution Tuesday for the cost cap, which was set Thursday by the Finance Committee.

The new 39,000-square-foot law enforcement center is slated to be built on about 3 acres the county owns at 240 E. Progress Drive with a 90-bed jail expected to cost up to $19 million, depending on construction bids and contingency costs.

Construction bids are expected to come in around late July with a goal of breaking ground on Aug. 1, but Lee County Sheriff John Simonton said he’s concerned the cap could slow the project if numbers come in higher than $18.5 million and he has to wait for board approval.

The construction timeline will be tight to have the facility enclosed by winter so work can continue.

Simonton recommended that they set the limit at $19 million, but the committee didn’t budge.

Committee Chairman Bob Olson and member Tom Kitson said $18.5 million is the most the county can afford without affecting county services.

The cap, previously set by the committee at $17.5 million in November, comes after concerns last month that the county won’t have enough to cover the costs without dipping into reserves, which are crucial as the county is strained with considerably depleted landfill revenue.

The proposed jail will have a mezzanine with an observation hallway with windows large enough to see both levels of cells, as well as a sally port, space for the sheriff’s department, storage room, and a detention pond to alleviate flooding issues.

The target completion is November or December next year.

The bulk of the costs will be covered by bonds financed by the countywide half-percent sales tax increase that went into effect in July, and board members have talked about using solid waste reserves or capital funds to make up the difference.


The Lee County Board next meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the third-floor board room of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

The agenda will be posted at leecountyil.com 2 days before the meeting.