August 26, 2015 Edition

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Jim Langford with the SouthBuild Team discusses plans regarding a new county jail complex Tuesday morning in the Lawrence County Meeting Room. The team will be in the county all week and available to answer questions. A presentation detailing the jail plan will be given Friday from 10-11 a.m. in the meeting room.
TD Photo ~ Megan Heyl

Plans for new
jail to be

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The SouthBuild Team commissioned to develop plans for a new county jail complex is in the county this week collecting data and developing plans for a proposed jail.

The basic design and budget will be ready by the end of week, according to representatives from Spirit Architecture and Smith-Doyle Contractors, Inc., two of the firms that make up the SouthBuild Team.

Jim Langford with Spirit Architecture said they will be working day and night while here and anyone with a question is welcome to come and visit them in the library meeting room.

Friday from 10-11 a.m., a presentation will be given detailing the plan, schedule and cost of the proposed complex. The public is also invited to come to the presentation.

Tentative election,
schedule set

During their first day here, Tuesday, the team worked to determine a tentative schedule for a special election to vote on sales tax, as well as design, bidding and construction time estimates.

The county may be looking to call a special election as soon as Nov. 17. Discussion Tuesday morning included the need to have the election far enough out to educate the public but soon enough to appease the jail standards committee, which has given the county its final extension of Oct. 1 to have a plan in place for the new facility.

The sooner date also provides some fallback dates for an election if arrangements cannot be made by the November date. Early December or January are being considered as possible fallback dates.

"It puts a responsibility on you," Langford said to county officials in regards to an earlier election. "You need to be moving on this."

If the sales tax passes on Nov. 17, the complete design process will begin in mid December and continue for the next five to six months. During this time, all plans will have to be approved by the fire marshal and the jail standards committee. "It takes time," Langford said.

The designs will be used to bid the project around July 2016, which would allow construction to begin as soon as August of next year with a tentative completion date in January 2018. All of this hinges on the sales tax passing in the first election. If it fails, any progress will be pushed back a minimum of six months.

Size, location,
cost discussed

The team started the week with plans for a 100-bed facility that includes a section to house the sheriff's office. Justices had previously discussed not housing offices in the new complex to save money. However, the team reported that said the office would make up a smaller portion of the structure and be much cheaper per square foot as it doesn't require the same security standards. Langford said by keeping the office with the jail, the county would save money in the long run due to requiring less staff and transportation between the two facilities.

Sheriff Jeff Yates said his primary concern is building a facility that is as efficient and cost-effective as possible. "I want to use every square foot I've got," he said.

If funded, the facility would be built at the intersection of Sixth and West Elm in Walnut Ridge, which is county-owned property, and would have options for expansion in the future.

Estimates of a half or five-eighths-cent sales tax have been discussed in previous Quorum Court meetings as a likely amount needed to build the facility. The exact amount won't be known until plans developed this week can be reviewed. Justices will also have to factor in an operating budget and will likely have to pass a separate sales tax for that.

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