Monday, June 13, 2011

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LXXXII): County once again contemplates a (truly) new jail

After many months in which the possibility of the county getting a new jail (as opposed to refurbishing part of the "old nursing home" to serve as the county jail) has not been discussed, such a facility was back on the Quorum Court agenda at a recent meeting of the county's governing body. The June 8, 2011 issue of the Newton County Times reports that on June 6 the Quorum Court was "shown a new plan for a much leaner stand alone jail back on the originally selected site, county property on state Highway 7 south of Jasper." As long as a year ago, the county shelved plans to build the jail on this site because it "failed to perform satisfactory [sic] on a percolation test to see if the subsurface was suitable for a septic system. ... Under the plan existing at the time, the county could not afford both the facility and the cost to connect to Jasper municipal waste water treatment plant."

Now, however, with the cost of renovating the "old nursing home" and converting it to a jail on the rise (in part because of the expense of asbestos abatement), Prosecuting Attorney Ron Kincade "presented a rough outline on tracing paper a working drawing of a jail meeting state jail standards. He said he asked a contractor to take an earlier design created by the project's architect and 'reduce' it to meet the county's $1.2 million budget." Kincade believes the smaller facility and additional funding from the Rural Development might permit "a 6-inch line to the municipal sewer possible," thus making possible the construction of a new jail.

The scaled-down version would have the capacity to house 10 women and 20 men, with four cells for the "most violent prisoners."

A contractor who originally bid on the project gave the new design to Kincade. Kincade said the county is in the process of capping the architect's fee for the project because the architect has already been paid for the original plans.

Read earlier posts about the multi-year jail dilemma here, here, and here. The county has been operating without a jail for two years.

In other business, the Quorum Court passed an appropriation ordinance placing $13,202 from an Administrative Office of the Courts courtroom safety grant in an account to be used for a metal detector, stun cuffs, fireproof safes and security mirrors for the courthouse. It also appropriated $35,000 from the Dept. of Arkansas Heritage for preservation and renovation work on the courthouse.

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