Franklin BOC Reaches Consensus on Jail Expansion Funding

Franklin-county-Sheriffs-ofc-250x143By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia

Franklin County Commissioners reach an agreement on how to fund the proposed jail expansion.

At their work session Tuesday evening, the board heard from county manager John Phillips.  Noting that there was about $800,000 dollars already set aside for a jail expansion from a previous SPLOST, Phillips recommended a multi-phase approach.

“In order to prevent this project from dying and to keep it moving forward, what I would recommend is utilizing part of those funds to go ahead and complete the plans, get the civil site design completed,” Phillips said.

He said that would allow the county over a period of time to use county employees to do site preparation and utilities work.

“So that we’re making progress and have a site that is ready for the actual building construction,” he concluded.

Phillips also recommended putting the jail expansion project on the next SPLOST referendum to secure funding to actually build the jail extension.

“Hopefully, we will be successful in having the SPLOST pass. I think it would be conceivable that we would have the site prepared and everything ready for the contractor to get started upon approval of the SPLOST,” Phillips said.

Commission chair Thomas Bridges said he believed the plan was viable and recommended the board approve the plan at their regular meeting next week.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we did not have this included in the present SPLOST,” Thomas said. “Therefore it put us in the mud, so to speak. But it’s never to late to start it like Mr. Phillips talked about and then ask the citizens if they want to move forward with an expansion of the jail I think is a good approach.”

However, Commissioner Jeff Jacques, who earlier suggested the county use its reserve fund to start the project, had some reservations.

“I think it’s a very well thought plan and methodology that has been proposed,” Jacques said. “The only concern I have is that all of this is predicated on number one, that there will be another SPLOST, and number two, that it passes.”

Plans are for the construction of a four pod, 96-bed addition to the current detention center, which would house non-violent offenders and women.  The county currently spends between $5,000 and $15,000 a month to house out inmates in other county detention centers because of overcrowding.

Total cost of the project right now is $2.5 million dollars.

This is the third funding proposal in as many months and Franklin County Sheriff Stevie Thomas said he’s ready to move forward as soon as possible before construction costs go up.

“Construction costs are definitely going up,” Thomas said. “I know StephensCounty initially they were told their whole complex would cost $7-million. They waited two years and it ended up costing them $11-million.  I understand and respect where you’re at, but we definitely have to keep digging. We can’t give up because there are definitely other things that could happen.”

No vote was taken at the work session Tuesday, but the board plans to bring the matter up for a vote at their regular meeting next week.