Building a brand new jail is something Garvin County's sheriff believes is now a better option than remodeling the current facility.
Even though plans for some time have been to renovate the county jail, Sheriff Larry Rhodes and others have changed their minds.
Rhodes told all three Garvin County commissioners this week he has concerns about the long anticipated project to renovate and expand the current facility to cover all of the county courthouse's first floor annex.
He and project architect Larry Blackledge say they now believe looking at a new jail building is better than a remodeling project.
“Here we are 11 months later and my staff and I still have concerns. It's sad I have to come to you with concerns about this after all the work that's gone into it,” Rhodes says.
“If we remodel this jail it's not going to be where we need to be. It's not going to meet our needs in 10, 20, 30 years down the road.
“I think we have other options, maybe look at identifying a location and build a new jail.”
Blackledge said more research into health codes reveals a renovation of the current jail will only increase inmate capacity to 102 instead of the original plan for 147. The jail's current max number is 76.
He adds an expansion of the building itself at the courthouse has a “plethora” of other issues that could prove troublesome.
“We're taking an old building and trying to make a new building out of it,” Blackledge said. “It doesn't really work.”
The sheriff suggests the site of a new jail could be on property already owned by Garvin County.
Maybe, he said, the county could negotiate with the state Department of Corrections for a portion of land at the former Southern Oklahoma Resource Center south of PV.
“I don't think it's the right thing for this county to remodel this jail,” Rhodes said.
“I know it's a big step from remodeling this jail to new construction. Cost wise I don't think it's a big step. Sense wise it's not a big step at all.
“It needs to be central to the county and close to the interstate. Cost is something we have to look at.
“Maybe we could do a feasibility study to provide more information. What does a jail in Garvin County need to look like in 30, 40 years. We don't know, and we could use a feasibility study to tell us more.”
As for how to pay for the construction of a new jail, Rhodes said a portion of a half cent county sales tax could be used.
Currently it's the second seven-year period for the tax, which is set to again go before voters for renewal in 2021.
Carol Dillingham, counsel for the county commissioners, suggests getting more information and seeking some proposals for a feasibility study on building a new jail.
“I would be shocked if we don't have to ask voters to go up on the sales tax at least an eighth of a cent on a permanent basis for the maintenance and operation of the county jail,” she said.
“We're not looking at turning ground for a least a year with another 18 months of construction.”