(Photos by Scott Welton, Staff)
Presiding Commissioner Martin Priggel said opening the new jail is a highpoint for the county, marking the culmination of years of effort from present and past county officials such as Dewaine Shaffer, former county commissioner, during the three-year process.
Once the new jail is operational, the county's normal inmate capacity will increase from 48 beds to 120, allowing the county to reduce its reliance on surrounding jails to house county prisoners.
The cost in 1999 to house prisoners out of the county was $68,000, Priggel recalled, "And we thought that was bad." By 2002, the cost had risen to over $634,000.
Priggel thanked those who supported the campaign for a new jail and Scott County voters for approving the sales tax which made it possible, adding they can only imagine "how bad it would have been if we did not pass the tax." The half-cent law enforcement sales tax was approved by voters in April 2000 and expires in 2008.
The new jail will not eliminate all the crime in the county, Priggel said, "but it is bound to slow it down and make Scott County a safer place to live."
The jail was designed, "not to be fancy, but practical," Priggel said. "This jail is built the way modern jails are built."
The county jail now in use was originally built in 1932, according to Sheriff Bill Ferrell. It was then updated and remodeled in 1971, adding a kitchen and office area among other improvements.
Priggel said once the new facility is fully operational, the old jail will be demolished to make room for parking. The county has also obtained additional land to the south of the jail for future expansion should it be necessary, he added.
Following Priggel's remarks, Commissioner Walter Bizzell introduced elected officials among those at the dedication including local officials and State Rep. Lanie Black.
Commissioner Jamie Burger then took the podium to recognize a few of the many people from the 80 companies that participated in the construction project along with the general contractor, Penzel Construction Company of Jackson.
The final speaker on the program, the sheriff, introduced law enforcement officials in the room and offered remarks. "This is a dream come true for us," Ferrell said.
He said his department's task now is to get fully trained on the new facility. "This job has just started for us all."
Ferrell said when he was first elected in 1977, there were only 12 Scott County prisoners. Seven years later, the jail was packed.
To really appreciate the new jail one needs to see how bad the old one is, Ferrell said.
Ensuring the safety of inmates, visitors and staff has always been his top priority, Ferrell said, and the new jail will finally allow him to classify prisoners and separate otherwise decent citizens who have made a mistake from dangerous criminals.
Following the ribbon cutting, guest were invited to tour the jail.