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County continues struggle to purchase land for possible jail expansion

By Meg Dickens
Freelance Writer

Those who frequent County Commission meetings are aware of a land deal floating in the balance for many months. Although the county reportedly has the first right of refusal upon sale, each offer sent in has been denied. Now County Lawyer Perry Stout is preparing to go back with the highest offer yet.
When debating a specific offer before this, both Stout and County Mayor Mike Taylor reported that the other side kept mentioning a proposal of $100,000 from an unidentified party. The County Commissioners approved matching this rumored offer during the November meeting, but the county was denied once again. This month’s proposed offer includes an additional $20,000, equaling $120,000, for the property. At this time, there is no word on whether the owner will accept the new offer.
The land adjoins directly to the current building and is owned by June Williams. Other than settling on a price, there are no other clear roadblocks in obtaining this land, but according to the ongoing discussion, this land is necessary for an expansion without splitting up into two linked facilities.
“We will need it at some point for expansion,” Stout reminded the commissioners. “At this point, we’re looking at one more offer to try and move forward.”
Despite previously reported shortages in the jail and prison personnel, on the last report, the jail was successfully recruiting new employees after raising pay rates at the end of September. Although there is no known plan to expand immediately, doing so in the future could have a positive impact when the time is right. Officials are working to have that possibility open.
Having more room would mean more availability to house prisoners for outside sources, which could bring in more money for the community, as officials have discussed in previous meetings. On the other hand, having to split a future expansion would mean doubling up on some expenses, such as food production equipment. Alternatively, it could force the facilities to ferry resources back and forth, which would cost a significant amount in fuel costs.
The final success or failure of the current deal will decide what the future looks like for the local jail. Officials seem to be fighting to obtain the land to expand in the most efficient and cost-friendly way possible, but only
time will tell what the future holds.