Fulton County moves ahead with new jail

SALEM, AR (KAIT) - Fulton county is moving ahead with a badly-needed new jail for the county.

Fulton County Sheriff Buck Foley showed me their 7-bed jail located underneath the Sheriff's office in Salem.

"We are down in a basement and it's not the best conditions that you can see. We can't hold any females, we can only hold females and when it rains heavily we lose two cells when it floods." Foley said.

The booking room is also the storage room for personal items for inmates. A closet that used to be a cell now houses blankets and orange suits and a washer and dryer. The small kitchen is up stairs.

Fulton County Judge Charles Willette says the county has been dealing with jail issues for a long time.

Willette and I stood at the site of the new jail. "For several years now and I say several, it's probably been about 20. We've been out of compliance with jail standards." Shaking his head he went on, "Finally we got the letter from jail standards we had to get into compliance. So we had to start the process to figure out how to finance a new jail."

In November of 2011 county voters approved of using 17.5 percent of an existing 1 cent sales tax to pay for the 2 million dollar USDA loan. Also the county received a 300 thousand dollars stimulus grant to get the project started.

This is going to be a 24 bed facility. We will have 16 male and 8 female facilities and as you can tell we're starting on the jail right now.

The plan is to convert the old Fulton County Nursing and Rehab Center which was donated to the county several years ago after closing in 2007. The front part of the building will be used for much-needed office space.

Willette, "Our 911 office will be in this building, also we'll have an OEM office and couple of entities have inquired about renting space. Willette said they also are planning on making a small courtroom for juvenile court.

The kitchen will be kept to be used for the jail and connected by a walk way . The building has a split about half way back and everything from this split on back will be demolished. County workers, including Judge Willette who jumped into a track-hoe and did a little demolition work for me; will tear down and clean up the site. Contractors will build the jail itself.

The initial stage of demolition was done by convicts from Calico Rock. Judge Willette says they are trying to save as much as much of the old building as they can to be re-used. For example a large pile of lumber will be used as the basis for a county shop and for a garage to be used to service Sheriff's cars. The sheet metal was also saved for the county shop building as well. All the copper that wasn't stolen was sold for scrap and the Judge says they have already got most of the other scrap metal sold. The bricks and pad will be ground up for fill uses.

Sheriff Foley says when the project is complete both Salem and the county will benefit.

Foley, "All our offices will move out there. Hopefully we'll have enough room for the city police to move out there and have their offices there so we'll have a complex there."

Willette said that once the demolition is complete construction should be done in about a year.