Plans call for jail#039;s completion in 485 days

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 21, 2007

Activity continues on Walnut Street where construction on the new jail is underway and thanks to some more changes, the jail's planned space has increased.

According to Butler County Commission Chairman Jesse McWilliams, because the county chose to go with pre-built cell modules for part of the new facility, an increase in housing space will be available. This would alleviate concerns expressed by Sheriff Kenny Harden at a June County Commission meeting lockdown space.

&#8220It was supposed to be an 80-bed facility, but we needed an increase in lockdown cell space,” McWilliams said Tuesday morning at the Butler County Courthouse Annex.  &#8220We were looking at 13 percent of the jail being lockdown areas, but with these modules we can increase that number.”

As it is, the cost of the new jail will be approximately $4.5 million to build. The current jail houses just over 50 inmates, so the additional beds will help ease overcrowding, something Sheriff Kenny Harden faced over the weekend.

&#8220We currently can house 52 inmates at the old jail,” he said.

&#8220Over the weekend we had 61 inmates in the jail.”

 McWilliams said the modules they want to install still have to be inspected by the Alabama Department of Corrections before they can installed, but that should not hinder the construction project.

&#8220The project began on June 21 and currently they have 485 days to complete it,” McWilliams said.

&#8220However, if we do go with the modules we've chosen, that time could be extended due to the chages.”

He said the changes will also make the detention center more secure.

&#8220The plans are improved now with the inclusion of the modules and gives us more security,” he said.

Some inmates will be housed in dormitory style areas, but all will be under constant surveillance.

McWilliams said he is glad to see the project on track and that it should conclude just before his term is up.

&#8220This has not been an easy project,” he said. &#8220But it goes beyond the five of us now on the Commission. There are commissioners from the past who have taken part through the years in getting this project going.”

Harden agreed he is happy to see it on track.

&#8220It is important for us to have this additional lockdown space,” he said. &#8220I am glad to see the Commission is moving forward with this and addressing our needs.”

McWilliams also said he knows the decision to the build the jail on Walnut Street was not a popular one, but it made sense from a security and financial standpoint.

&#8220There isn't room to build a jail at the old location and the soil there wouldn't support it,” he said. &#8220We couldn't build it out in the county somewhere because then the sheriff would be constantly transporting prisoners back and forth to the courthouse.”

A short time later, Sheriff Harden and Chairman McWilliams chatted with Nick Anderson, project supervisor who told them, the change in one wall gave them an additional space for four more beds, raising the total number of inmates to 84.