New Funding for Franklin Co. Jail Expansion Considered

By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia

A Franklin County Commissioner said he has an alternative plan to fund the expansion of the Franklin County Detention Center.

The current jail is designed to hold 76 inmates, but has a population today of almost twice that.

Many of the more serious offenders are also being housed at other facilities in other counties at a cost to Franklin County of between $5,000 to $15,000 a month.

A plan being considered would add another four pods and 96 beds to the Franklin County Jail to house non-violent and women offenders.

However, it would come at a cost of at least $2.5 million dollars.

During a work session last month, a jail study subcommittee proposed forward funding the construction using a $3 or $4 million bond issue until the next SPLOST passed.

At a meeting earlier this month, Franklin County Commissioner Jeff Jacques said while that plan might work, it had some problems.

“First, we have no way of knowing whether voters will even approve the next SPLOST,” he told the board.
If that were the case, the county would be forced to raise the millage to make the monthly bond payments.
“I’m also very, very concerned that this would adversely affect our ability to provide our citizens with essential core services,” Jacques said. “If this bond were to go to fruition, you’re talking about a total of $1.35 million being paid out over the life of the bond to attorneys and to investors in the State and throughout the nation.”
After reviewing Franklin County’s budget and finances, Jacques said he came up with a plan that would use monies from the county’s $1.8 million reserve fund that are now sitting in a CD.

Jacques also recommended dropping the idea of combining the jail expansion with a plan to extend natural gas service throughout Franklin County.

“These projects are in different states of readiness,” he said. “The jail expansion is much more ready than the natural gas expansion.”

Franklin County Commissioner Clint Harper, who sits on the natural gas subcommittee, noted it would be at least a year before the City of Royston would have the cost figures ready on the gas expansion.

Jacques also proposed that Franklin County do the jail pod construction in phases.

“I would like to keep the costs to a minimum, so while utilizing these funds, I would like to just construct two of the four pods now and wait to finish the project when additional funds become available,” he said.

Franklin County Commissioner David Strickland, who came up with the bond issue idea, said Jacques’ plan was a good one but expressed concerns the fund balance would drop too low.

Jacques said the fund could be replenished over time with new revenue.

After hearing from Jacques, Franklin County Commissioners agreed the plan was valid, but no vote was taken.

The board plans to discuss it again at its next work session later this month.