Officials frustrated over delay in opening of new jail
The Washington County Commissioners and Sheriff Claude Combs are growing impatient about the delay in the opening of the renovated jail.
The renovated jail was originally scheduled to be completed in the middle of September, according to County Commissioner David Brown .
Brown’s frustration seemed to reach a boiling point at the commissioner’s regular meeting on Oct. 7.
“The reason I am asking so many questions on this whole (jail) project,” Brown said, “When this whole thing started we were looking at a start up date by the middle of September. We were told it would be a functioning facility and we’d be ready to go. Now, it’s getting into the middle of October and I’ve yet to see a prisoner in that jail. We are dragging a little bit. I am hearing complaints about it from the tax payers. I’ve announced the middle of September date on the radio for the past year. I’ve told a lot of people that this jail would be functioning by mid September.
“I walked through for fifth time last week and I am still seeing wires hanging out.”
Combs frustration is two fold.
First and foremost, according to Combs is the over-crowding issue that created the need for a new facility hasn’t gone away.
“The biggest issue is we have to get these people off the floor,” Combs said. “We made commitments to the ACLU and the federal people that we’d get these people off the floor and give them a space to stay in. That’s why we haven’t been in federal court and why they haven’t fined this county and this needs to happen.
“The building has been sitting there all but done since mid August.”
The second issue for Combs is the fact that every day the new jail isn’t ready is a day that county is losing money.
“I’d made a deal with another county to hold inmates and every day we are not able to hold them, we are losing money,” Combs said.
Construction manager Les Smith went through a list of concerns with the commissioners and assured them everything will be fixed and functioning before everyone packs up and leaves.
“The contractor’s are not going to leave town,” he said. “The motivation for them not to, if there is a problem, is we are holding about $610,000 on these contractors.”
Brown asked how long they can withhold that money.
“As long as you want, it’s in your account,” Smith said. “Really, until everything is done and every signs off on the project.”
Combs said once he gets the green light after the open house the plane is to move prisoners one pod at a time.
“The whole jail staff has been great to work with,” Smith said.
Once the open house was held last Saturday (October 11) Combs and his staff can begin moving inmates into the new jail.