Warren County has taken the first step toward a $7 million expansion of its jail.
A resolution declaring the county’s intent to reimburse itself for certain expenditures for a proposed jail expansion was accepted Monday by the county Safety Committee.
The measure passed 4-1. Commissioner Teddy Boyd, chair, Carl D. Bouldin, Randy England and Ron Lee voted in favor, while Commissioner Charles Morgan voted against it.
The resolution, said Boyd, expresses the county’s intent to hire an architect, pay for those professional services out of the county’s general fund and if the county decides to move forward with the project, reimburse itself from the bonds, notes and/ or loans obtained for the project.
It also indicated the expansion is expected to cost $7 million.
Morgan says he not against jail expansion, but he is against a resolution on funding being handed to committee members who have yet to discuss proposed plans for an expansion.
“I can’t vote for it because I’ve never heard anything about an addition to the jail,” said Morgan. “I’ve heard nothing about it.”
Overcrowding at the jail has been an issue for years. Currently, the jail has more than 300 inmates but a capacity to hold 251.
“The state is telling us we have to have more room,” said Bouldin. “The state is letting us go over capacity because we promised we are going to fix the problem or at least attempt to fix it. They are telling us we are needing more employees. All the pods are full so they’re taking all the storage rooms and turning them into jail cells. They have people in every nook and cranny over there.”
In attendance was architect Derrick Clemow, who is currently the architect over the Warren County School System expansion projects and is the architect over the new jail being constructed in Van Buren County. He was asked by County Executive Herschel Wells to go through an initial review of Warren County’s jail with the state.
“We started the process and it became real evident very quickly there are a lot of issues with the jail,” said Clemow. “I think everyone here knows there are issues, not just with overcrowding, but with long-term planning.”
Architect Jim Armstrong, who had never built a jail before, was selected to design Warren County Jail expansion. The $6.5 million project was completed in 2005.
The resolution will be sent to the county Budget and Finance Committee. Full County Commission approval is required.