Leader Blues

Saturday, February 16, 2008

TOP STORY > >Sheriff hopeful of more funds for jail repairs

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Work has begun on repairing the roof of the old jail, and Sheriff Doc Holladay will be shocked if the Pulaski County Quorum Court doesn’t authorize new heating and air conditioning, mold removal and painting when it meets in regular session February 26, according to John Rehrauer, the sheriff’s spokesman.

That’s step one of the sheriff’s four-stage, $10.4 million – $12.4 million fix, intended eventually to nearly double the number of inmate beds to 1,530 from the current level of 880.

He expects the quorum court to authorize about $400,000 from the public safety fund to rehabilitate the old jail, Rehrauer said Thursday. That wouldn’t add to the existing capacity of the Pulaski County Detention Center, but it would keep the 160 non-violent inmates currently housed at the Work Release Center more securely in rehabilitated old jail pods A and B.

“We found some money in our own budget to get started on the roof,” Rehrauer said.

Holladay has to get final approval from quorum court to proceed with the old jail rehabilitation.

Holladay say he hopes those inmates and some administration offices can move into the old jail “within this calendar year,” Rehrauer said.

The plan, presented to quorum court subcommittees last Tuesday, has widespread approval, including that of former UALR Chancellor Charles Hathaway.

Hathaway authored the study that helped create a roadmap for expanding jail capacity and straightening out county funding and bookkeeping.

The speed with which the sheriff can implement the other steps of his plan may depend more on finding money to staff and operate additional jail space than on finding construction money, much of which could come from second-lien bonds, according to quorum court member Allen Kerr.

The sheriff’s office projects additional maintenance and operations costs to house the additional 660 inmates at about $6.2 million a year.

The other steps of the sheriff’s plan include:

Building a 200-bed warehouse-style facility within the fenced perimeter of the new jail to house the most serious non-violent felons. Detention center capacity would increase to 1,080 prisoners. Construction costs are estimated at $4 million for annual maintenance and operations, $1.5 million.

Reopening the work center to house 250 misdemeanor inmates who could help offset their cost to the county by performing work. Jail capacity would be 1,330. No construction cost, annual maintenance and operation $3 million.

Building a 200-bed secure wing—bricks and mortar—connected to the new jail for violent felons would up capacity to 1,530. This wing would cost $6 million to $8 million and cost about $1.6 million a year to operate.