Warren County on Tuesday opened its new $56.5 million jail and sheriff’s office.
About 100 elected officials, county employees, judges, law enforcement officers and guests attended the ceremony that also included a tour of the new facility. Also in attendance was Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer, whose county is asking voters for a 0.25% sales tax increase to build a new $50 million jail.
Sheriff Larry Sims said the administrative staff has already moved into the building and he expects the jail to be fully operational in the coming weeks when prisoners are moved to the new facility.
Sims said with an increased bed count of 496 from 280, capacity needs are projected to be met for the next 15 to 20 years. He said the location and land amount enable future expansion without relocation, and the facility was designed to functionally meet the workflow needs of the Sheriff’s Office. Sims said the facility could expand by as many as four pods, each with 150 more beds.
“This is an exciting day not only for the Board of Commissioners and the Sheriff’s Office, but for the community,” Sims said. “There is no better place to be in law enforcement than in Warren County.”
The new jail replaces the current jail that opened in 1996 and was attached to the former jail that it replaced that opened in 1976 which was used to expand the sheriff’s office and for storage. The commissioners have not yet decided on the future of the current jail and demolition is an option being considered.
The new facility provides more room for office records, investigators, training and conference rooms that the old facility lacked. It also has a medical section that has exam rooms, and dental exam room and medical isolation cells. The booking area is also larger with 32 booking and holding cells. One pod will be for females, while two other pods will be for males.
At 148,000 square feet, the new Jail and Sheriff’s Office more than doubles the existing complex. The project came in at $56.5 million, $1.5 million under its projected budget and was completed on time, said Commission President David Young.
He said the county had saved up $10 million and placed a five-year, 0.25% piggyback sales tax to pay for the new jail which expires in December 2022. Young also said using the sales tax revenues also saved Warren Countians about $30 million in the cost to borrow money to build the jail.
Young said a planning subcommittee explored other options to avoid having to build a jail. After realizing the current jail was no longer sufficient, he said building a new jail made, “the most sense for not only today, but tomorrow.” He said the collaboration was of members of the commissioner’s staff, Sheriff’s Office, Wachtel McAnally Architects, Granger Construction and Megen Construction.
Sims described the new facility as “efficient and modern.” He said it will add four additional correctional officers and a clerical employee at the jail and four additional clerical employees for the records department which will become a 24-hour operation.
After the new jail is in operation, Sims estimates to having about 350 inmates in custody. He also said that local judges will not have to be so frustrated anymore because there was no room to incarcerate people because of capacity limits.
“They won’t hear that we’re full because there will be room at the inn,” Sims said. “I know it’s been frustrating, but it also made judges more selective on who needed to be in jail.”