Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - Thursday, April 24, 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
County hears results of jail study
Houston County Courier - April 2008
The Houston County Commissioners Court Tuesday heard results of a feasibility study, which explored the various methods by which the capacity of Houston County Sheriff's Office Jail could be increased.
Wayne Gondeck with DRG Architects presented the study, which concluded that the Houston County needs a 144-bed jail.
The current jail, built in 1992, has an official capacity of 70, but has been temporarily increased to 88 by converting an indoor recreation area into a temporary dormitory cell.
Three options were studied. Option one was to enlarge the existing facility and keep both the jail and sheriff’s office in the same building, as it is now. According to Gondeck, that option is not feasible due to space limitations.
Option two was to add on to the existing jail, and construct a new law enforcement center on county-owned property adjacent to the jail. The law enforcement center would include offices for the sheriff’s office, as well as the justices of the peace and adult probation department.
The existing building which houses the justices of the peace and adult probation would be razed, and that area would be taken in by the expansion of the jail.
Option three was to construct a completely new jail and law enforcement center at a different site.
Gondeck stated that in his opinion, both option two and option three are viable options.
Each has its pluses and minuses. And each would provide opportunity for additional expansion in the future.
He projected the cost of option two to be $8.25 million.
He also recommended that if that option were chosen, the county replace the flat roof on the existing jail building with a new sloped roof at an estimated cost of $750,000, bringing the total cost of option two to almost $9 million.
The cost for option three, the all-new construction, was projected at $11 million. However, that figure does not include the acquisition and development of the land, which could push the cost up to $12 million or more.
There was a lengthy discussion between the commissioners and the architect about the two viable options.
Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt stated that before proceeding with either proposal, a public meeting should be held in the evening to allow all interested citizens an opportunity to review the options and voice their views.
He said that before the public meeting is held, a proposed site for new construction needs to be identified so that a final cost estimate can be projected for option three.
Gondeck stated that the county would need eight to 10 acres of land for new construction. That land would need to be serviced by city utilities.
“I would like to hold this public meeting within the next 30 to 60 days,” stated Judge Hunt.
“We have to move this project forward, and the next big decision that has to be made is whether to expand at our existing site or build on a new site.”
In other business Tuesday, the Houston County Commissioners Court voted to designate the courthouse as the early voting place for future county elections.
Early voting was moved from the courthouse into the annex when the annex was completed several years ago.
Judge Hunt said the courthouse offers more room and better accessibility, plus the convenience of being in the same building with the Houston County Clerk, who serves as the county’s chief election official.
The county authorized submission of a grant application under the Help America Vote Act. Funds are available to acquire additional electronic voting machines, and to assist with accessibility issues.
Commissioners welcomed the new County Auditor to her first meeting. District Judges Pam Fletcher and Mark Calhoon recently appointed Melissa Mosley to succeed the retiring Louis Cook as Auditor. Mrs. Mosley’s appointment was effective April 16. She has served as the County Auditor in Madison County for the past 10 years.
A proposal from Infinity Networks to provide inmate telephone serve at the Houston County Sheriff's Office Jail was approved.
The bid for purchase of grader blades was awarded to Mustang Cat, while the bid for purchase of metal culverts went to Wilson Culverts.
Commissioners also recognized three longtime county employees.
At the last meeting, in observance of County Government Week, commissioners presented certificates to nine employees and officials who have worked continuously for Houston County since the 1980's or earlier.
At the Tuesday meeting, commissioners recognized Tax Assessor/Collector Danette Millican, Auditor's Office employee Patricia Sims, and Treasurer's Office employee Jane Sexton for their many years of service.