October 22, 2014 Edition

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Sites for jail studied

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The Lawrence County Quorum Court heard about possible jail sites and costs from the SouthBuild Team during its meeting, Oct. 14.

The company, based out of Tennessee, specializes in rural detention needs. Making the presentation were Mike Kelley, director of business development, and Jim Langford, architect. The company surveyed two possible locations, the former Black Rock School campus and 6.2 acres at Southwest Sixth Street and West Elm Street in Walnut Ridge.

Langford said both locations have potential but money saved by using the existing structures at Black Rock wouldn't be significant and there is ultimately more flexibility building on a clean site. He estimated a savings of $200,000 at the Black Rock site but County Judge Dale Freeman said he doesn't have a price for the buildings yet, which are owned by the Lawrence County School District.

After the initial survey of the land, Langford said he believes the Votech building at Black Rock would be more suited to retrofitting due to the surrounding area being more open for expansion. He also said the quality of the materials in the old gymnasium, another building surveyed, make him hesitant to retrofit it, a process that would require them to tear up the wood flooring in order to install plumbing needed for the cells.

Another thing the court was asked to consider when looking at possible locations was the cost over a 30-year period, the average life cycle of a county jail. Langford said that the construction cost only accounts for about 20 percent of the overall cost of a jail, the other 80 percent comes from operation costs, staff and maintenance over that 30-year period. Transportation savings alone could prove beneficial enough for the county to locate the jail on the Walnut Ridge acreage, closer to the Lawrence County Courthouse.

While a detailed construction budget has yet to be made, Langford said he believes either site could be done under $10 million. Should Lawrence County choose to employ SouthBuild Team for the job, a work session would be conducted to develop a total capitol cost budget, including furnishings and equipment, prior to the funding process.

The work session would cost the county $16,000 plus expenses but once funding is achieved and construction begins that $16,000 goes toward the total cost of the building. If funding fails, the county will still owe the company for the work session but if funding is approved at a later date, the company will update the budget at no additional charge and proceed with construction.

Kelley said that in the company's 18 years of business, they have never gone over budget and any money saved on the project will stay with the county.

Freeman formed a committee to continue research on surrounding jails and architecture firms. Members include Lloyd Clark, chairman, Bonnie Ragsdale, Dan Sloan, Merle Mitchell, Doug Wayland and Harold Willett.

In other business:

  • an update was given by 911 Communication Center Coordinator Peggy Miles on the center's budget. She said through cutting expenses and restructuring staff, the center has been able to alleviate the deficit. The ending balance in 2010 was negative $216,559 and the balance is now at negative $150,830. An additional $100,000 will be transferred to the center from county general by the end of the year.

  • Justices discussed a possible traffic hazard at the new Black River Bridge as a result of a new business, American Silica, Inc., coming to Lawrence County. Trucks will have to cross multiple lanes of traffic near the bridge where visibility is expected to be limited. Freeman said he will be communicating with Walter McMillan, Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department district engineer, on this issue.

  • budget adjustments were made for the Third Judicial Prosecuting Attorney's Office due to insurance premiums increasing and the Lawrence County Road Fund and the Enforcing and Under-Age Drinking Laws Grant Fund due to errors found during the 2013 audit.

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