Crowded and outdated jails are common across the Ozarks, leading several counties to plan new jail construction. While sheriffs are thankful for the public’s support to build them, they now ask for patience.
In Webster County, voters agreed to a 1/4-percent sales tax to replace their 75-year-old jail.
“When you neglect something for over half a century, it gets in pretty bad shape. And I think that’s happened all across the state of Missouri,” said Webster County Sheriff Roye Cole.
The tax passed in August 2014, but Sheriff Cole says planning a once-in-a-lifetime project takes time.
“The focus is on making the product as good as we can make it with the amount of money we have. We want it to be effective and efficient, and we want it to last the rest of our lifetime. That’s really our goal,” Cole said.
The land where Webster County plans to build its new 150-bed jail sits empty near the courthouse and jail. They had hoped to have broken ground by now, but the bids came back in January more than 20 percent higher than anticipated. County officials are waiting to see whether any legislative issues could help lower labor costs to build the jail.
“I hope we don’t have to go back and redesign. If we don’t have to go back and redesign, we could be back on track within a very short amount of time,” said Cole.
In Wright County, a 1/2-percent sales tax passed just last week. Its more-than-50-year-old jail just had a fire in January and is constantly full, forcing the county to house inmates elsewhere.
“I’m grateful and thankful for the public doing it,” said Wright County Sheriff Glenn Adler.
A plan some years back proposed building on the north side of the current building,
“It’d be like a two-story jail. It’s too early to tell,” Adler said on Tuesday.
The planning process is really just beginning. As neighboring Webster County knows, it will take time.
“Put everybody’s head together, what we want to do and where, and then you’ve got to hire an architect to draw up those plans. And, once that’s back and forth and approved, you’ve got to get a contractor. So it’s going to be a while,” said Adler.
Other counties in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas that have passed taxes over the last year that include jail construction include Dent, Lawrence, Douglas, Pulaski, and Marion County.
By Linda Russell | KY3 News