Plans for new jail in Jackson Co. delayed - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Plans for new jail in Jackson Co. delayed

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) - Plans to build a new Jackson County jail are taking longer than expected.

The county took bids last month to secure funding for the new jail but they are now over budget. In June, county officials had a groundbreaking ceremony of the new facility. And four months later construction is still on hold. Sheriff David Lucas said he has been pushing for a new county jail since 2005.

"It's been a long battle," Lucas told Region 8 News.

The county took bids last month to secure funding for the new jail but the low bid came in at $2 million over budget. Lucas said they had to make revisions and cuts to the original plan to get within budget. One of the revisions included cutting 5,000 square feet.

"Make the maximum amount of square footage we could make without jeopardizing the operation of the jail and the sheriff's office and without cutting bed space, because that's what this whole thing is about," Lucas said. "The rate on the construction phase is a little over $250 per square foot."

But they hope to shave 100 dollars off that amount. Lucas said overcrowding in the county jail has forced them to let the non-violent inmates go free.

"Some of those were released on leg monitors, some of them were released on citations to appear," he said. 

The jail went from 240 percent capacity to right at 100 percent. The current jail only has 27 beds. 

"I don't like having to turn people loose especially when they break the law cause I feel like I'm not doing the citizens justice that I was sworn to do," Lucas said.

County officials are racing against the clock to finalize the plans for the new jail. Last year voters approved two sales taxes to fund this project. The county got the land for free after a swap with the local bond board.

"We're in a time crunch now because if we don't get started before bad weather gets here then it will be next spring before we can do anything," he said. "Every month we delay it's just costing us that much more money."

Lucas said construction should begin before the end of the year—pending weather. The new county jail will have 104 beds.

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