Jail expansion and maintenance approved by Greene Co. voters

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – Residents in Greene County voted overwhelmingly in favor of a pair of measures that will help the county construct an addition to the current jail facility on Rockingchair Road. According to Greene County Judge Jerry Shipman, the estimated $16-million project could be completed sometime in 2013. Shipman said he was proud of how city and county leaders have worked together in the last few months.

"We'll sign that contract and we'll be taking their advice and our knowledge on how it's to be done. We'll be advertising for the contracting of the jail," said Shipman. "It was 2,440 (residents) that voted and 70% in favor, so it just, everything went as planned. Dave and the blue ribbon committee, they just functioned."

Shipman said the county will sign an agreement with HMN Architects to design the expansion. According to Greene County Sheriff Dan Langston, the expansion will include 416 beds, three control rooms and a medical area. Langston said the new additions will help the county stay out of problems with Arkansas Jail Standards.

"After the first quarter, we'll probably start turning dirt, and I'd say June, July, August, and it should be completed. It depends on the weather, within 12 months to 16 months," said Langston. "We're looking at building something that is large enough to carry us 20 years and then having another plan; putting money aside in case 20 years from now, we need to make an addition. There's money there. We don't have to come back to the citizenry to say, 'hey, we got to re-up the tax' or we got to do this."

Shipman and Langston said they were happy with the Greene County Quorum Court, which listened to recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Jail Project Committee.

"The people realize that we need, the needs of the Greene County Detention Center, also this was the best way to resolve it with a sales tax," said Langston. "The property owners would be the only ones who would have to contend with the problem. Now with the sales tax, it's everybody who comes into Greene County. They support the tax and the Greene County Detention Center addition."

In the meantime, the jail must still deal with overcrowding. Wednesday, the day after the vote, the jail held 134 inmates. The current structure is only suitable for 84 inmates.

"It's an 84 bed facility. 72 male, 12 female," said Langston.

"We'll continue with what we're doing now. We're trying to relieve the overcrowding. We still make arrests. We still have personal recognizance on some cases, bond on other cases," said Langston. "The biggest thing is keeping the building, keeping our housing here in compliance."

While the population continues to rise in Greene County, Langston and Shipman said there is plenty of room for future expansion should the need arise.

"We went to the people. We told them the need. We explained the problem. We explained the solution. They met the challenge. The people of Greene County came forward and said we have a problem. We own this problem and we're going to take care of this problem," said Dave Tierney, Jail Project Coordinator. "This jail does not belong to the sheriff. This jail does not belong to the quorum court. This jail does not belong to the judge. This jail belongs to the people of Greene County and it's up to the people of Greene County to fix the problem."

Once bonds are sold, the county will then decide who will receive the bid to build the structure.

"Selling the bonds, that's in the process right now. Appointing somebody to be a bond leader and sell bonds and then we start tweaking the final plans," said Langston.

"We are sending a signal to the criminals of Greene County that we have a place to put you. You better watch out when you're in Greene County. You will go to jail," said Tierney. "Phase one was to identify the problem. Phase two was to identify the solution, and phase three was to communicate with the people. We have ended phase three. We're moving on to phase four. Phase four is let's get this thing rolling."

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