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Jail study approved

After more than four years without a jail, McCreary County may finally get an answer to the question of “is it cheaper to house prisoners in other counties, or to build a new jail?”

An Indianapolis firm has submitted a proposal to the McCreary County Fiscal Court Thursday to conduct a feasibility study in the possible options for the County regarding the future of inmate housing.

At the request of Magistrate Roger Phillips, the Fiscal Court sought bid proposals for such a study. During Thursday night’s meeting only one bid had been received, from DLZ – an architectural and engineering firm with offices throughout the central United States, including Kentucky.

According to the proposal, DLZ would conduct a study to determine the needs of the county, including the potential for building a new jail facility or the alternative option of sending inmates to another detention center.

The firm’s study would entail looking at county demographics, arrest and crime data, the Court system, inmate profiles and detention center population analysis to determine a variety of possible options for the County moving forward.

The firm will also interview several individuals, such as the Sheriff, Jailer, prosecutors, Judges and members of the Fiscal Court to learn about needs, finances and other important information to determine the best course of action for the County.

According to their proposal, DLZ has experience performing such studies: including a recent design of the Rowan County Detention Facility and are in the process of a similar feasibility study for the Ohio County Fiscal Court.

The cost of the study, according to the proposal, would be on an hourly basis – not to exceed $8,000.

The Fiscal Court voted unanimously to accept the bid.

Since the closure of the McCreary County Detention Center in 2013, debate has raged over the cost of housing inmates at other facilities verses either repairing the old jail or building a new facility.

Critics of how the current plan operates argue that building a new jail would allow the County to better control the cost, and would also provide needed employment locally.  It could also open the possibility of housing state and federal inmates, which could generate revenue.

A local jail would also make it more convenient for families to visit incarcerated loved ones.

Judge Executive Doug Stephens has admitted having a new jail would be a good thing for the County, but has serious doubts about the County’s ability to pay for such a facility.

An informal proposal presented by Judge Stephens last year estimated the expense of constructing a new facility, coupled with the cost of operation would far exceed the annual costs of transporting and housing inmates in out of county facilities.
Stephens’ projections put the annual cost of operations, including salaries and debt services at over $1.5 million per year.

The current Jail budget, with the majority of prisoners being housed in Leslie County, operates at about $1.1 million annually.

There has been no word on the expected start date of the study, nor the completion.

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