May 2006 target date to start on new jail

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 20, 2005

After having discussed the concept of a new jail for Butler County for the last five years, groundbreaking could be as early as May 2006.

The new jail will be built with a new $2.725 million bond, which will have an interest rate between 3.5 and 4.5 percent.

The bond is being insured by Excel Capital Insurance, and it has a Triple A rating. According to Reese Rainey of Capital Markets, the loan will include interest payments twice a year and a principal payment once a year.

According to Butler County Commission Chairman Jesse McWilliams, payments for the new jail bond will be made out of court cost monies, which should cover the $500,000 estimated operational costs for the new jail. There will be no new costs for the residents of Butler County.

After the groundbreaking takes place, it should take approximately 18 months to complete the new jail from that time.

&#8220This is something that Butler County has needed for a very long time,” McWilliams said.

Butler County Sheriff Diane Harris echoed McWilliams' sentiments.

&#8220The new jail will be much safer and will provide more security for both the inmates and our citizens,” Harris said. &#8220I'll be very glad to see it built.”

The new 53-bed facility, which will be located on Walnut Street behind the old Butler County Health Department building, will be designed so that additions may be added to it as needed. Part of the new jail will consist of a prefabricated building or module with the electrical and plumbing fixtures already in place.

&#8220This will help greatly in cutting costs,” McWilliams said.

The county commission has been consulting with 2WR Architectural Services, a firm out of Montgomery, with architects Mike Rutland and Mike Watson to be used.

The current jail, which was built in 1929, has seen many problems over the last few years, not only with prisoner overcrowding but also with deteriorating conditions.

&#8220The heating pump is old, and we're having to constantly replace the windows,” Harris said.

&#8220We're putting money in repairs that could be used in the new jail,” McWilliams said.

Two other critical issues that needed to be addressed, according to McWilliams, were the medical costs of the prisoners and the need to keep the same number of jail employees.

&#8220Al McKee has been a fantastic jail administrator,” he said. &#8220He has helped to keep the costs down at the current jail, and this has really helped Butler County.”

As for the location of the new jail, he said that the present site wasn't suitable for the new facility due to several leveling and settling problems with the soil and the embankment.

&#8220The jail needs to be where the prisoners could be walked to the courtroom,” McWilliams said. &#8220If we put the new jail in the middle of the county, then we would have the cost of hauling prisoners back and forth to the courthouse, and that's not counting the security that goes along with that.”

Even though many people have expressed concern about the new location, Grady Tindal, who lives on Bell Street, believed that there could be two ways to look at the situation.

&#8220If there's a jail break, they're not going to hang around the jail. They'll try to get as far away from it as they can,” Tindal said. &#8220On the other hand, if an escaped prisoner stopped to steal something like a gun, we'd probably be the first target.”

&#8220Either way you look at it, Butler County needs a new jail,” Tindal said.

&#8220The sheriff has worked well with me on this issue,” McWilliams said. &#8220It's important that we both work together to get this thing built for the safety and security of the people of Butler County.”