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Commission reviews jail financials as referendum on new facility looms

With the referendum on a $15.5 million bond issue for the construction of a new jail just three weeks out, the Lamar County commission reviewed financials on operational and maintenance costs at the current facility last week. The current jail was built in 1992 with room for 152 inmates. At that time, the sheriff’s office staff was 26. It is nearly twice that now. Many administrators are housed in a remodeled mobile home hear the jail. Design flaws at the jail placed all the plumbing underneath the concrete slab and placed the control center where supervision of all inmates is not possible by the watch officer. Two investigative grand juries (2014 and 2017) have strongly recommended replacing the jail. Over the last four years, jail maintenance has cost an average of $103,734 annually while operating costs have averaged $949,967 per year. Also at issue is the impact of inflation on the estimated construction cost of $14.6 million. Waiting just one year would increase the construction cost by $554,800 and boost bond interest payments by $563,350, increasing the dedicated millage from 1.469 to 1.496. Delaying construction six years, will increase construction cost by $3,661,552 and bond interest by $3,241,700. At that cost, the millage share would go up to 1.722. Though the construction cost is estimated at $14.6 million, the bond issue is for $15.5 million to account for any unanticipated expenses. The county will only borrow – and pay interest on – the actual amount needed to build the new jail. Early voting on the referendum and one that gives voters the choice on Sunday package sales of alcohol got underway Monday at the elections board office in the courthouse annex on Thomaston Street.

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