Construction of the new Fayette County Jail on Robinson Road, which began in June, is on track and has a completion date estimated for this fall, according to Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth.
Stanforth explained this week that the first-level floor is complete and approximately 90 percent of the walls are up. The second-level floor is partially done with a few walls up. The exterior walls of the structure are not being completed yet so that items can be taken in and out easier during interior construction.
Although the project is running mostly according to schedule, various parts, such as doors and windows, that are being used for the project have to be custom-made to meet detention center requirements. Stanforth explained that the project could be delayed in some ways depending on delays in manufacturing and transport of these items.
The new jail is planned to be a law enforcement complex including an administrative area, a 911 call center, the detention area, an exercise area, etc. Space to separate inmates, per state requirements, is planned into the project. It is also planned to be able to provide adequate medical and rehabilitative services 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 exercise area will have a mesh roof so it is open-air, but is part of the building with walls two-stories high to keep people from climbing out. There will also be a fenced-in area behind the jail in case an evacuation from the facility is needed, according to Stanforth. This would allow the quick removal of inmates without releasing them into an uncontrolled environment which is what would occur at the current jail in the event of an evacuation.
Granger Construction Company is in charge of hiring contractors for the project and has hired many local residents. This allows local contractors to work closer to home when normally they would have to travel for work.
“That paycheck is staying in Fayette County,” said Stanforth.
Construction begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. Monday-Friday with occasional weekends depending on weather.
The levy that allowed for the funding of the new jail passed during last year’s special election in May. The levy contained two parts — one to fund the construction and one to fund the operation.
As previously reported, the funding for the jail is a 40-year, $21,002,594 loan with a 3.5 percent interest rate which would add approximately $66.50 annually to property taxes per $100,000 of appraised property value, according to the Fayette County Commissioners.
The project for the new facility came about due to the condition of the current jail which was originally built in 1884. Although there were additions made in the 1900s to the facility, that was prior to the state standards and regulations in effect during this century.
As previously reported, officials explained that the current jail had failed 61 state standards and only passed 31. Essentially, the current jail was and still is in danger of being shut down by the state.
If shut down, the inmates would have needed to be transported to another location and more money spent to house them in that location than it would have cost to house them locally. This would also take deputies out of Fayette County to drive, potentially hours, away and would harm local jobs as the jail would not be operational, according to officials.
“If we would (try to) modernize (the current jail) to meet today’s standards we couldn’t do it,” said Stanforth. “It isn’t feasible. We’re talking about cast-iron plumbing that’s been in the ground since 1884 and once you compromise that it just crumbles.”
In an attempt to bring as many things up to standard as possible in the current jail, unsafe situations for a detention facility have had to be created, he explained.
According to Stanforth, the mason work currently being done is some of the best work he has ever seen. Once the project is complete, the jail will be opened to the public to view prior to moving in the inmates.
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @JennMWoods.