Friday, January 13, 2012

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XCV): Ground broken on new county jail

I've written a lot over the past four years about Newton County's jail travails. Some of the earlier posts are here (May, 2009), here (November, 2008), here (January, 2009) and here (March, 2009). My first post about the jail dilemma is here (June, 2008), and some decent photos of the old jail are here. That old building, a historic structure, is currently serving as the county's Christian Food Room.

Well, after about four years of fiscal wrangling and hand wringing, the county has finally broken ground on a new jail, the jail its residents agreed to pay for with a tax increase in November 2008. To be more precise, though, the jail is not truly new. In fact, the county will be working to convert an existing structure--a metal building that the story refers to as a "well-appointed residence"--into a jail. That existing structure, which ironically sits right next to the old jail, is shown in the photo above, which was taken in mid-November, 2011. The then owner of the building is pictured moving some things out, perhaps in preparation for turning it over to the County.

The December 7, 2011 issue of the Newton County Times shows a number of officials at the ground breaking ceremony, among them County office holders (including Justices of the Peace), several sheriffs deputies, the Newton County District Judge, officials with the construction company that won the bid to do the renovation, and a staffer from the office of U.S. Senator John Boozman. Each is holding a gold-painted shovel, though the significance of the gold paint escapes me.

The structure that will house the jail measures 57 feet by 80 feet, and it sits at 105 Elm Street. According to the specifications of the bid, it will feature five felon men cells with two beds each, two felon women cells with two beds each, a male dormitory with six beds, a woman's dormitory with six beds, a holding cell, a cell that meets the American Disability Act, and a control room. In addition, the jail will include a dormitory for eight state inmates under the Act 309 program, an ADA-compliant public restroom, an industrial kitchen, two inmate visitation rooms, two exercise areas, a laundry room, an inmate property room, a booking room, a record room, two men's showers and two women's showers.

Davis Construction of nearby Harrison won the bid to renovate the structure. Many of the home's fixtures will be "carefully removed and put up for public auction," with proceeds going toward construction costs. The county sheriff joked, "I don't think the judge wants to send a convicted criminal to a five-star hotel." Davis Construction's winning bid was $840,000, well below the $1.5 million to be raised by the tax increase passed more than three years ago to finance the jail's construction. I do not recall seeing any notice in the newspaper of how much the county paid the building's prior owner for the land and structure.

No comments: