In Dec. 24 IssueBy Greg WellsTimes Journal Managing Editor
The bids were opened and totaled up and the preliminary figure to build a new Russell County Jail is now $3.69 million.
That is down from the $5.7 figure last September, and in line with the figures first quoted for an 80-bed jail.
Russell County Jailer Darrell McQueary said he is glad the figures came in lower this round, and said he is "pro-jail," and that the county needs to build a jail.
"People need to understand though that this jail is not a money maker like some people have been presenting it," McQueary said. "We need a jail and I'm proud to see a jail coming…"
However, the jailer said it takes a 250 bed jail to bring in enough revenue to operate at no cost to the taxpayers.
"You've got to have 4 paying prisoners (from the state or other counties) for every county prisoner that is costing you money," he explained.
Magistrate Greg Popplewell, who was not able to be there for the bid opening this Tuesday, said he was not comfortable with approving construction of a new jail based on the information he has been presented so far.
"I mean its going to cost more to staff it more to feed those prisoners more for electric - more for medical bills," Popplewell said.
He indicated it wasn't clear to him that these extra costs had been figured into the cost estimates presented to the court so far.
Magistrate Steve Bledsoe, who also could not come to the mid-day gathering, indicated he'd been shocked by the last bid results and wondered aloud what had been changed and what bad been left out of the bids to get the price down by $2 million.
Bledsoe said he wanted to know for certain just what the final construction cost would be for the jail.
County Judge-Executive Mickey Garner said he was happy with the bids and that he expects the jail to be built.
"There were three magistrates there and we all agreed to go ahead with it," Garner said. "Course we've got to vote on it."
For that vote he said he is planning a special called meeting of the fiscal court next week, and expects it will be on the 30th of December.
The small-jail option has been presented to the fiscal court as a way to save money, with Garner saying the bond payments would be no more than what the county has been paying for other counties to house local prisoners.
The jailer has stressed all along that the smaller jail was better than no jail but it was not the best answer for the county and the taxpayers.
"It will take a big tax to build and run this jail," McQueary said. "-There is no way that jail will pay for itself with only 80 beds.