New jail loan closing saves $1.8 million in interest

By Jennifer Woods - [email protected]

“We’re officially closed,” said USDA Rural Development Director Ashley Kelly on Monday, following the signing of documents that closed the loan for the new Fayette County Jail.

Although construction on the new jail site began the week of June 17, the closing for the loan was postponed in hopes that a lower APR could be achieved. The original APR was 4 percent, but by waiting the Fayette County Commissioners and USDA were able to achieve a 3.5 percent interest rate.

The lower interest rate will save $1.8 million in interest over the 40-year life of the loan, according to Fayette County Commissioner Dan Dean. The loan is at a fixed rate and has no prepay penalty.

Building a new and updated jail has been discussed for a couple of years. In 2019 there were a few informational meetings set up for the public, a day where community members could tour the current jail, and information tables set up at community events like the Fayette County Health Fair.

The current jail was originally built in 1884 and according to county officials, the jail recently failed 61 state standards. It only passed 31 state standards.

The current jail was originally built for a 24-bed capacity, and today there is an average of 67 inmates housed at one time. This gives inadequate space for medical or psychological services.

Work conditions are considered unsafe and unsanitary. It was explained in one of the public meetings that workers would go home after a shift smelling like sewage as the jail would often flood.

The new jail is planned to be a law enforcement complex which will include administrative offices and a 911 call center on Robinson Road. It is planned to have proper space to separate inmates in consideration of gender and severity of crimes, to provide adequate medical and rehabilitative needs, as well as to provide programs for inmates to learn life skills that can help them to positively integrate into society, according to officials.

The levy for the jail was voted on during a special election on May 7. It passed by a 1,378-1,129 margin after 15.55 percent of voters took part in the election.

There are two parts to the levy. The first part is to construct the jail. The second part is to provide financial support for the operational expenses of the jail (including the cost of staff and medical providers). The land being utilized was already owned by the county.

Currently, the levy is adding approximately $66.50 annually to property taxes per $100,000 of appraised property value, according to Dean. There have been several inquiries from the community asking if sales tax could be used instead of property taxes.

The commissioners explained they are continuing to search for different options to pay the loan in lieu of property taxes and have thanked the community for supporting the new jail project.

Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355. Woods | Record-Herald file photo

By Jennifer Woods

[email protected]