Jail Going Up, Block by Block By Joe Rowley, The Herald Journal November 22, 2002 LOGAN, UT — They’re the biggest Lego blocks you’ve ever seen. At least that’s one way to describe them.
The blocks are really 42 modules, or prefabricated jail cells, that will make up a major portion of the new Cache County Jail complex before the end of the day Saturday.
The modules rolled into Logan earlier this week, completing an 18-day journey by train from Conley, Ga., where they were manufactured. Along with them came a small crew of men who loaded them one-by-one onto semi trailers at the Logan Train Depot and hauled them to the construction site at about 1200 W. 200 North.
After breaking ground just one month ago, construction on the jail will take a giant leap forward over the next two days thanks to the prefabricated modules.
As they come off the train, the concrete cells are almost ready for inmates, complete with every thing but a sprinkler in the ceiling and a lock on the door. The locks can’t be added until the rest of the structure is built to prevent the mechanisms from rusting and getting ruined by the elements, said Brian Fowler, field supervisor for Tindall, the company that built the cells.
Otherwise construction is as easy as stacking a bunch of 60,000-pound building blocks.
The electrical, mechanical and plumbing for the cells are already in place and just need to be connected, Fowler said.
As one semi after another pulls onto the job site, each carrying one module, Fowler and his three-man crew set to work. First, they hook four thick cables to the cell, one reaching out to each corner. As a large construction crane slowly lifts the module, the trailer rises several inches and three sets of shock absorbers hiss a sigh of relief and they shrug off their 30-ton load.
One worker pours a quick drying, non-shrinking grout into four holes in the foundation, which will hold the four rods on the bottom corners of the cell, Fowler said. The grout will dry and become hard like cement, securing the module into place.
With holes in the top of the first-floor cells, the same concepts work to set the second and third floors in place.
The crane operator lowers his load over the foundation - compressing black rubber bumpers that are placed at intervals - and holds it there for a minute. One worker puts a spirit level against the foundation and along the side of the cell at several points, and another uses a man-sized pry bar to shift it ever so slightly until all four sides line up.
Then down comes the full weight, off come the cables and one of the 42 of the detention cells is in place.
“Once we set the module we walk away from it,” Fowler said. “That module’s not going anywhere. You’ve got 60,000 pounds sitting on there.”
The job is done that quick.
The semi backs out of the job site and another comes in, starting the process again. From the time the cables are attached to begin lifting, to the time that the cell is in place and free from the crane, only about 30 minutes pass. The full job of placing 42 new cells will take about two-and-a-half days, Fowler said.
“If you wanted to erect this out of block, it would be about a three month process that we can do in two or three days,” he said.
Fowler’s small construction crew travels all over the country erecting jails wherever Tindall sells them. That crew, he is quick to brag, has been together seven years without one lost-time accident.
Easy, quick construction was one of the selling points that convinced county officials to purchase the prefabricated cells, Cache County Sheriff Lynn Nelson said. Looking at the construction time line, they knew much of the structure would be built over the winter months. If the county had gone with the next cheapest option, cinder block, that would mean going to the trouble of erecting tents and providing heat for masons to work in day after day.
Nelson wanted the sheriff’s office’s new home to progress as quickly as possible. Lt. Kim Cheshire, the jail commander, agreed that speed is of the essence in this project. Jail staff is working every day in overcrowded conditions, in an old building that seems to always have some kind of problem, he said. Last week it was the pipes, other times it’s the electricity. The current building is worn out, Cheshire and Nelson said.
Contractors have been on a tight schedule racing to this crucial day, Nelson said. Some of the electrical work was finished just Thursday morning before the cells showed up on site, he said.
“It’s really been a mad house. The architects, mechanical and electrical people have just been going crazy trying to get to this point,” Nelson said.
When the first module settled into place about 8:45 Thursday morning Fowler removed a metal plate holding one door shut, pulled a strip of silicone sealant out of the door jam and swung the door open. Inside was a complete jail cell, painted floor to ceiling, two bunks bolted to the walls, a desk, stool, sink, toilet, window and light.
Just like that it was set into place, secure and ready for inmates.