Franklin Co. Commission Tables Jail Funding Decision

By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia

Commissioners in Franklin County are putting off a decision on how to fund a proposed jail expansion until after a detailed budget review.

Franklin County is considering adding a four-pod, 96 bed extension to its current detention center to house non-violent offenders and women at a proposed cost of $2.5 million.

So far, three funding plans have been put on the table.

The first includes borrowing the money via a bond issue and paying it back over 15 years using revenue from Franklin County’s next Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

The second plan calls for Franklin County to use most of its $1.3 million reserve fund to start the project and finish it in phases as more revenue comes in.

A third plan that Franklin County Manager John Phillips put forth would involve using $800,000 accrued from the last SPLOST and already designated for a new jail to start the project and then use revenue from the next SPLOST to finish it.

Last week, Franklin County Commissioner Bob Franklin moved to pass Phillips’ plan.

However, Commissioner Clint Harper said he does not think that is the way Franklin County should go.

“After considering this proposal I found what I was looking for in Luke 14:28 and 29 where it says, ‘For which of you intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it. Lest, if he is not able to finish it, all who see it mock him.’ Have we counted the cost?” Harper asked.

Meanwhile, Franklin County Commissioner Jeff Jacques, who originally proposed using Franklin County’s reserve fund, said he did not want to move forward with any plan until he had all the numbers in front of him.

“I think before we get to that point, I think we need to evaluate,” he said. “We can bounce back and forth about what we have in that jail fund. Nobody has told me what we actually have in that fund. Before I’m willing to go forward, I need to know how much we have in that fund.”

Jacques said he wants to know what future jail expenditures and revenues will be as well as what the next fiscal year’s budget will look like before making a decision on funding.

“We’ve got our budget hearing coming up for next year,” he said. “We need to sit down and look at where we are this year with the budget. We need to look at where we are next year with the proposed budget. So, I would like to have a full understanding of where we are now and I would like a full understanding of where we are with next year’s budget.”

Franklin County Commissioners then voted 3-2 against Phillips’ plan.

Noting budget hearings were coming up over the next few weeks, Franklin County Commissioners decided, without taking another vote, to table a decision on jail funding until after the budget process was completed.