January 7, 2015 Edition

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County to advertise for
jail plans, estimates

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The Lawrence County Quorum Court voted to advertise for architects and design teams to act as consultants on a new county jail in order to get some official information for the different options the county has under review.

Justice Lloyd Clark, chair of the jail committee, said they have received multiple unofficial cost estimates but need to get a more substantiated estimate before moving forward on deciding a location.

"We want to get more data and make an informed decision," Clark said. He said that this is only to advertise for plans and cost estimates for the locations under consideration and the county is not to the bidding process yet.

Justice Jim Jones recommended the county look into keeping the administration in the courthouse and building a stand-alone jail close by. He said he believes that could save the county millions.

The court remains divided on two locations for a new jail. There is believed to be some expense savings possible by refurbishing the buildings at the former Black Rock School campus, but travel expenses and cost of the property are still uncertain. There is also a Walnut Ridge site under consideration, which the county already owns, but it would require the new jail to be built from the ground up.

Parole center discussed for BR

During discussions about the county jail, Clark announced that the Arkansas Department of Correction has been in contact with the county about establishing a parole release training center at the former Black Rock School campus.

The center would be separate from the county jail but could possibly provide some revenue for the county and would also increase community service in Lawrence County through the program, according to Clark.

County Judge Dale Freeman said the officials who surveyed the site were very interested and expressed intentions of consolidating several parole release programs in surrounding counties to the single center in Black Rock.

However, it is uncertain how a center located at Black Rock would effect using that location as the site of the county jail.

Walnut Ridge Alderman Jeff Taylor requested the county continue to consider the old Higginbotham Funeral Service property and had the real-estate agent for the property quote them a price. The property is located directly across the street from the present jail.

Jones said he has heard concerns about asbestos or other harmful contaminants in the building, which would have to be torn down for the county to build a jail. The agent said they have not had the property inspected and would speak with the owners about doing so.

Also at the Monday night meeting, justices approved an interlocal agreement with Hoxie to provide all dispatch services for the city. The agreement is for five years at a $48,000 annual cost for Hoxie.

Hoxie closed its dispatch services at the end of 2014.

Justice Alex Latham commended Hoxie for making the hard decision. He said it is unfortunate that the jobs at the city dispatch had to be eliminated but it will save the taxpayers the expense of the independent dispatch and be a benefit to both Hoxie and the county.

In other business, justices approved:

  • the payment of $2,500 to public defender Chris Jester for outstanding bills from 2014 due to his expenses exceeding the budget approved at the beginning of the year.

  • the appropriation of fire prevention premium tax funds to the Lynn, Saffell and Smithville volunteer fire departments, the departments received $6,926, $2,668 and $6,465 respectively.

  • the appropriation of about $15,000 in East Arkansas Planning and Development grants for work on county roads 440 and 441.

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