Time is of the essence for a local jail in poor condition the sheriff's office approached the county board this week to let them know they could be facing federal liabilities if they don't fix the jail soon. Commissioners know something needs to be done, but footing the bill to fix it is what they have to deal with first.
There have been talks of making improvements on the Lowndes County jail, but since it's not a popular topic, the jail continues to deteriorate. The 630-bed facility is facing massive problems with its plumbing and has very limited space in the medical, kitchen, intake and visitation areas.
County commissioners agree that all areas need fixing, but finding the money to pay for it is the problem.
“We had hoped initially to find ways to build a new structure, we hoped to do, but financial situations does not allow us to do those things,” says Pritchard.
The county manager is looking at two options. One is to refurbish the existing jail with the option of making additions. This would be done in phases over a number of years. The second is to build an entire new jail.
“Rather than fixing, $14-15 million fixing what we got, we can spend the $16 million to build a new one, whether they'll do that, it's totally up to them.”
The kitchen and entire sections of jail cells will have to be shut down pretty soon. If this is the case, the cost of meals will increase and it'll cost even more money to house the inmates in another jail.
The county manager has 30 days to come up with the most feasible solution. For now, the jail has to deal with what it has before the county faces federal liabilities or lawsuits, which will be yet another expense for them.