Voters pass levy for county jail

Turnout was only 15.41 percent at Tuesday election

By Jennifer Woods -

Tuesday’s special election has concluded and the levy for the new county jail passed by a 1,360-1,124 margin, according to unofficial results from the Fayette County Board of Elections.

There are two parts to the levy. The first part is to construct a new and updated adult detention facility. The second part is to provide financial support for the operational expenses of the adult detention facility (this includes the cost of staff and medical providers). The jail is proposed to be built on county-owned land near the landfill on Robinson Road.

The levy will add an approximate $66.50 annually to property taxes per $100,000 of appraised property value, according to Fayette County Commissioner Dan Dean.

After the ballots were counted on Tuesday night, Fayette County Commissioner Jim Garland said, “I’m tickled to death—we needed it so badly. I don’t want to pay for it more than anybody else—I pay my share of taxes, but we needed it and it’ll be good for the community.”

The current jail was originally built in 1884. According to county officials, the current jail failed 61 state standards, it passed only 31 state standards, and there is little chance to provide medical or psychological care to inmates due to the lack of space available for such services. Work conditions are also considered unsafe and unsanitary. Originally, it was built for a 24-bed capacity and today there is an average of 67 inmates housed in the jail at one time.

The new jail will have space to properly separate inmates in consideration of gender and severity of crimes. It will provide space for medical and rehabilitative needs to be met as well as a program for inmates to learn life skills that can help them to positively integrate into society, according to officials. It will be up-to-date with current technology and safer features for all involved.

Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said, “We tried to run the best jail we could with what we had, and we’re going to do our very best with this new facility. Hopefully it’ll last the community for a long time and be a very effective detention facility. This is going to give our employees a safer place to work and they can come in and at least know they won’t be walking through sewage.”

Included in the unofficial results from the Fayette County Board of Elections was information on voter turnout. There are 25 precincts in Fayette County with a total of 16,135 registered voters. Of those registered voters, 2,486 cast their ballots in this election—a 15.41 percent voter turnout.

Stanforth said, “We always appreciate those who come out to vote. Regardless of how they voted, they exercised their constitutional right to cast a ballot—and those who chose not to vote chose to go along with the others.”

The jail levy was the only issue on Tuesday’s special election ballot in Fayette County.

Dean explained, “We’ve spent a great deal of effort trying to get this message out there, and I’m just so relieved that the effort so far has paid off. In the long run I firmly believe this will save the county money and it’ll actually give us the possibility to improve things.”

Fayette County Commissioner Tony Anderson said, “We’ve still got a lot to prove to the community—that we can live with the budget that we said we would, that we’ll get the jail built that we said we would, for the cost that we said it would.”

According to Dean, the goal is to have the facility operating by fall of next year—follow the Record Herald for more information on the timeline of the new facility.

Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.
Turnout was only 15.41 percent at Tuesday election

By Jennifer Woods