Sunday, June 10, 2012

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part CII): Sheriff gives county officials a tour of new jail

The past few issues of the Newton County Times have been stacking up while I have been, among other things, visiting Newton County.  Recent headlines cover the renovation of a building that will become the new jail.  (I took the featured photos of the old (above) and new (center) jails during my visit over Memorial Day week-end).

The May 9, 2012 issue of the times features Sheriff Keith Slape's tour of the new jail.  He showed the Newton County Quorum Court (essentially the County Board of Supervisors) around following their May 7, meeting.  I have previously published a photo of (what was to become) the new jail here; that post also summarizes the history around financing and building the new jail, along with the history of the old jail's condemnation.  As you can see from that photo and the more recent one, the shell of the building is metal, and it was previously being used as a private residence and storage.  That suggests a cavernous space inside.  According to the story, "[c]ement block walls [have been] erected to form hallways, rooms and prisoner cells."  Slape explains that the jail's control room will be "manned" 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  All the other details of the jail--including its capacity for male and female prisoners and ADA compliance--I covered in this earlier post.  (Other 2012 posts about the jail are here and here).  The new jail is on track for completion by August 20, 2012.

One thing that strikes me in looking at the two jails--which incidentally sit right next to eat other, is how insubstantial a metal building looks as a jail--especially compared to its century-old predecessor made of native stone.  Not to mention how much more atmospheric the old jail is.  The new one looks like a warehouse ... and maybe that's how lots of folks see its function:  warehousing the "bad guys."  Heck, the new jail doesn't even have bars on the windows ... but I guess you don't need bars in the absence of windows!

A more recent story, from the June 6, 2012, issue of the paper, indicates that Newton County still does not have funding to operate the jail.  In 2008, the county's voters passed a half-cent sales tax to finance the bond issue to build the jail, but voters rejected another half-cent sales tax that would have provided funding for the jail's ongoing operation.  At its June 4, meeting the Quorum Court again took up the funding issue.  Justice of the Peace Terry Clark suggested the court seek a sales tax to meet the jail's operational costs.  He moved that the County Clerk draft two resolutions for the Quorum Court to consider at its July meeting, one resolution that would call (again) for a half-cent sales tax to operate the jail and another that would call for a one cent sales tax, with proceeds to be divided evenly between jail operations and county roads.  (Photo below is of the county law enforcement center, which is also conveniently adjacent to both the old and new jails, and just one block off the square.)

In other news, the Quorum Court at its May meeting passed a resolution designating Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District (NWAEDD) as project administrator of a grant for which the county is applying.  The grant application, for about $934,000, will be lodged with the Arkansas Community and Economic Development program.  The funds, if received, would be used to partially fund improvements to the Nail-Swain water system.  The project's total cost will be about $2.6 million.  NWAEDD will be an "administrative consultant to assist in the implementation of the grant application" and administration of the funds, if the grant is successful.

The Quorum Court also appropriated $3,685.39 from the "Department of Emergency Management for training and exercises."  The funds were transferred into the Sheriff's Office budget for "capital outlay."

At its June meeting, the Quorum Court appropriated into the road budget $129,930 from the U.S. Forest Service for repair of roads.  (The of lack of federal support for roads was addressed in this earlier post).  The road department also received $66,509.81 from the Arkansas Dept. of Emergency Management.  Additionally, $336 was appropriated to the Sheriff's office, funds the state paid to the county for housing an inmate.  The "Elections account" received $16 from the State Board of Election Commissioners for the certification of poll workers.

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