County, towns work on a joint study for feasibility of new jail

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 14, 2004

WOODVILLE &045;&045; Aldermen in Centreville and Woodville Tuesday appointed representatives to serve with Wilkinson County officials on a committee exploring the possibility of a new county jail.

The action came at the request of county officials who are seeking an interlocal agreement with the two towns to help fund the project.

The issue was first discussed at Monday’s meeting of the Wilkinson County Board of Supervisors.

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Chancery Clerk Thomas Tolliver told supervisors conditions at the current jail on the second floor of the courthouse have prompted several lawsuits resulting in higher insurance costs for the county.

&uot;We’re paying in excess of $60,000 per year in liability insurance premiums just to cover the jail. It’s depleting our funds and eventually we’re not going to be covered,&uot; Tolliver said.

After the meeting, Tolliver said the current jail does not meet state standards for fire exits and ventilation and lacks any yard facility for inmates.

The county’s handling of jail issues has been a source of contention among some local residents and elected officials.

In 2000, the county paid $50,000 from Community Development Block Grant funds for a used modular jail. But the modular jail has remained vacant, and county officials have said repairs and renovations are needed to make the facility usable.

And in 2001, the Town of Woodville removed its municipal prisoners from the county jail after the county demanded a $110,000 annual fee to house the town’s inmates.

Town officials said based on the number of inmates it detains, that fee would have translated to a daily rate of $64 per inmate. The town has since housed its prisoners in the Centreville City Jail at a daily rate of $25 per inmate.

Tolliver and District 4 Supervisor Robert Morgan &045;&045; both members of the jail committee &045;&045; agreed to approach the two towns at their respective meetings on Tuesday.

&uot;We’re extending an olive branch. It’s time for us all to come together on this,&uot; Tolliver told Woodville aldermen.

Morgan said the committee would search for grants to help defray the costs of a new facility.

&uot;It would seem easier to finance the jail if we had the two cities involved. And the county will take the bulk of the expenses,&uot; Morgan said.

Woodville Alderman David Smith said the jail project offers an opportunity for the three governmental entities to work together.

But Smith noted the Town of Woodville is currently involved in a major construction project of its own.

&uot;I think we definitely need to look into it. But you also have to realize that we’ve committed to about a $2 million project to build a new multi-purpose facility and police station,&uot; Smith said.

Woodville Aldermen Sharon Robinson and Gene Loftin agreed to serve on the jail committee. Smith was designated as an alternate member.

In Centreville, aldermen agreed to appoint three representatives, but not before Tolliver fielded questions regarding plans for the modular jail.

&uot;We could use it, too. We’re not shutting the doors to any ideas,&uot; Tolliver said.

Centreville aldermen Mary Sanders and Carl D’Aquila agreed to serve on the jail committee, as well as Centreville resident Felix Jones.

Formed in January 2003, the jail committee also includes Wilkinson County Sheriff Reginald Jackson, Deputy Patricia Delaney, Purchasing Clerk Consandra Christmas and District 5 Supervisor W.G. Johnson.