Harrison County considering new facility to house jail

CADIZ — Harrison County has officially accepted a new property in hopes of converting it into a new jail and law enforcement center.

The SSG George J. Conaway U.S. Army Reserve Center property was given to the county at no cost to potentially hold a jail, sheriff’s office and 911 center.

“We are officially proposing to take over that building after a few different issues had to be addressed and those are addressed now. Now we need to do … is to do a feasibility study on, number one, how many jail cells slash beds that we need moving into the future, how much of that building we know it can be retrofitted for a sheriff’s office, we know it can be a 911 center,” Commissioner Don Bethel said.

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners intends to conduct a study to determine whether the building will be feasible to function as a jail. The size, location, cost, and potential funding sources for the new facility must be determined before moving forward with construction plans. The study will take approximately two to three months, Bethel said.

“We do not know how much of that building can be retrofitted for an actual jail and the cost of that. Not only the cost of that, but the operational cost. … We want to do all this without taking any money out of the taxpayer’s pockets.”

“I know … no one really wants to pay any money out of their pockets, additional money out of their pockets, to pay to make the life of a criminal a little bit more comfortable,” Bethel said.

Following the completion of the study, Bethel said they will then check on the funding avenues to support the project

The project previously had an estimated cost of $10 million. Bethel said that loans will mainly fund the project, along with grants and oil and gas money the county has received.

“We don’t want to bankrupt the county to do this and we certainly don’t want to put it on the levy because people certainly don’t want to pay any more money to make prisoner’s lives more comfortable, so we’re going to do our job, and hopefully it will turn out for the best,” Bethel said.

Bethel said that in the event the study concludes the building will not adequately house the impending jail, it may still be feasible to hold the sheriff’s office and 911 center.

“It doesn’t have to be a jail, but at this time, that’s our main focus,” he said.