On Friday, a ribbon cutting at the new Fayette County Law Enforcement Complex (including the new jail) was held, followed by an open house for the public.
The complex, located at 1500 Robinson Road S.E. in Washington C.H., includes an administrative area, a 911 call center, and a detention area. Planned for the event was a flag raising by the Scouts of America, the ribbon cutting at 11 a.m., and the open house from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“There was a good assortment of folks and a lot of dignitaries — for a lack of a better word — who came through,” Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said following the event. “We had a good attendance from the community and gave them a chance to walk through, ask questions. There were a lot of questions, but people are going to get used to what we have. This is a new thing for Fayette County. It presents us with new challenges and opportunities, and I think we are ready for the challenge.”
Fayette County Commissioner Dan Dean, when asked how he felt about the project, explained, “overall I am very pleased with it. The construction company did a wonderful job. There were on-the-go changes from time-to-time because the Bureau of Adult Detention (BAD), which does all the jail inspections for the state, they’re always changing the rules a little bit, so we did some changes as we were going through it.”
As previously reported, the legislation allowing the funding for the new complex was passed by the voters during the May 7, 2019 special election by a 1,378-1,129 margin. The levy contained two parts — one to fund the construction and one to fund the operation of the new facility. The funding for the jail was a 40-year, $21,002,594 loan with a 3.5% interest rate. Following the passage, construction of the facility began in June of 2019.
According to minutes from a recent Fayette County Commissioners’ meeting, after 48 change orders from Granger Construction, the total cost of the construction project was approximately $21,689,760.
Since that original note, the commissioners were able to do a “county bond refunding” which included selling bonds backed by the levy at an approximate 2.35% interest rate, according to Dean.
“The end result of that will be the county will save, over the life of the loan, about $(8.5) million dollars in interest. Not only that, it shortened the period of the loan. So, instead of a 40-year loan, we now have a 31-year loan,” said Dean.
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—standards which the current outdated jail mostly failed.
Stanforth said, “I feel the people of Fayette County made this possible and no one person did this. The staff have done a tremendous job making the transition. The architects and the construction manager teams have all played a valuable role in getting this to happen. It is not a light undertaking and, in retrospect, it looked a little more daunting than what it was when we were looking forward to three years of construction. I can’t say I would want to go through it again, but it was well worth it to give the deputies a safe place to work and inmates a safe place to house. We deserved a better facility, and I think we delivered one.”
According to Dean, there is one more level of inspection that must be completed for the new complex along with some minor changes. One of those changes is in the multi-story cells where rails currently exist for the balcony level. Screening will most likely be added from the second-floor ledge to the ceiling.
“The balcony has the railing and everything like you are supposed to have, but, unfortunately, there’s been a trend in jails lately that inmates will jump off the balcony to potentially harm themselves so they can go to the hospital and get out of jail for a while,” said Dean.
Once the final inspection is complete, along with needed minor alterations, move-in of inmates can occur.
“We will be systematically moving inmates once we get our staff trained on all of the software operation for the facility,” Stanforth said. “We are probably going to start that soon. I think the first of next week we are going to be bringing the staff out and letting them do dry-runs and start working the equipment. We also have to bring the kitchen staff out to prepare meals at certain times to get used to doing that and make sure everything is working on their end. But we have a target date in mind for moving inmates, and we cannot release that. Just so no one takes advantage of that and does things that could harm staff or other inmates.”
Reporter Martin Graham contributed to this article. Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.