County breaks ground on new jail

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006

They came. They saw. They applauded.

Butler County officials held a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday morning for the new jail; a $3.5 million facility located on Walnut St. behind the county's courtroom annex building.

The jail issue has long been a problem for the county, said Commission Chairman Jesse McWilliams. The commission first started to look into building a jail in 1996, he said, and in 2000 began saving court fees to go towards construction of the new facility.

With $1.6 million saved, the commission bonded an additional $2.78 million in January to cover costs of building the jail.

Butler County's current jail was constructed in 1929. Overcrowding, winter heating issues, and inmate control has been just a few of the issues that has plagued county administrators.

Architect Mike Rutland said the new jail would be state of the art and include the latest in security technology.

&#8220It will have a video visitation system which will work well in respect to controlling contraband into the facility,” he said. &#8220It will deliver the safety and security the taxpayers of Butler County deserve.”

Rutland said the facility would meet the minimum standards of the America Correctional Association.

Sheriff Diane Harris, who has fought for a new jail since her first term in office, applauded the work of her jailers.

&#8220These people have been there and been diligent in keeping inmates controlled,” she said.

Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram joked he suspected the cost for holding city prisoners would &#8220probably rise” now. But he said the city was ready to do its part.

&#8220Having a new jail will eliminate so many problemsŠfrom the fights to inmates standing at the windows and yelling at people,” he said. &#8220You won't have that now. It will be a more professional atmosphere and a more professional way of dealing with prisoners.”

Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D - Luverne) and Rep. Charles Newton (D - Greenville) each congratulated the commission on what they called a landmark day for the county.

Mitchell recalled sponsoring the legislation that allowed the county to collect the court fees for the jail's future construction.

&#8220Standing here today, I'm proud to have sponsored it,” he said.

McWilliams also recognized Butler County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney and Greenville High School Principal Dr. Kathy Murphy.

&#8220I'm going to tell you why it's important they're here,” said McWilliams. &#8220These children we have coming upŠthey need an education; they don't need a hotel room in the Butler County Jail.”

Once construction begins, the jail will take an estimated 16 months to complete.