March 11, 2015 Edition

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County explores regional facility

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

Planning for a new county jail has been temporarily halted as county officials look into the possibility of locating a regional facility in Lawrence County.

At Monday night's quorum court meeting, Judge Dale Freeman said just within the last week, all plans for a new jail were changed. He and several other officials traveled to Little Rock to gather information about what it would take to locate a regional facility in the county.

He said he had the paperwork ready to submit and Lawrence County is first in line if they get it turned in quickly. The court passed a resolution to allow him to proceed with the Arkansas Department of Corrections in the application for the regional facility.

"If we get this worked out, it's not going to cost the taxpayers of Lawrence County a dime," Freeman said.

This solution came about due to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's prison reform plan, which allows the ADC to partner with counties in the creation of regional facilities to house both county and state inmates as an alternative to the 1,000-bed facility proposed last year.

The facility would be purchased through state money and bonds, which will be paid back through profits from the facility. The final cost of the facility, or a bed count, was not released and Freeman said there are still many details that need to be determined.

However, if the regional facility is approved, the location is almost guaranteed to be the 6.2 acres located within the Walnut Ridge city limits due to the size of the facility. Freeman said Walnut Ridge officials have shown their support for this plan.

Black Rock Mayor Bonnie Ragsdale, who is also on the jail committee, attended the meeting and said if this proves to be the best thing for the county, she will support it.

Jail Committee Chair Lloyd Clark said he believes the former Black Rock campus, which was also considered as a jail location, has a real chance at being selected for a parole release training center. That facility would be separate from both a county jail and a regional facility.

Also at the meeting:

  • Freeman announced the appointments to the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority. Serving on the board will be Clark, Lewis Slaughter and David Coker.

  • Justices approved the application for an Arkansas Heritage grant in the amount of $50,000 to be used for repairs on the Clover Bend Gymnasium.

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