In August, Garrard and Lincoln County fiscal courts met in a joint session to receive a long-awaited jail study prepared by Brandstetter Carroll Inc., and Gooch is confident in the numbers presented by BCI. He said the county can now proceed with gathering funds to finance construction of a new jail.
There is a small twist to the plans: Garrard County is considering options other than partnering with Lincoln.
Garrard Judge-Executive John Wilson said Wednesday, “Where we are right now, we are considering all of our options. Since that meeting, we’ve discussed partnering with Boyle County, which would be considerably cheaper, and would just involve adding on to their facility.”
Wilson said if Lincoln builds a new jail on its own, Garrard would enter into a long-term contract with Lincoln to house Garrard’s prisoners.
“It’s important to point out that all three counties have a great history of working together, and I’m confident that we will reach a decision that is mutually beneficial to everybody,” he said.
Tuesday night, Lincoln County Judge-Executive Bill Demrow wasn’t discouraged by losing Garrard as a construction partner, saying
$12 million project
Lincoln has enough bonding capacity to build a new jail and still maintain a comfortable margin of credit in case of an emergency.
The cost of a new jail is estimated at about $12 million or $13 million, and the county’s bonding capacity is about $17.5 million.
Gooch also was optimistic despite the possibility of losing Garrard as a construction partner. He told those at the forum that it actually might work out to the financial benefit of Lincoln County. The county receives a daily fee for housing state and federal prisoners, and if Garrard does not partner in construction, Lincoln would retain all of the proceeds from housing those prisoners instead of sharing the profit with Garrard.
For some in the room, Chief Deputy Don Gilliam and County Attorney Daryl Day’s comments were eye opening.
Gilliam said local law enforcement officers are not arresting some people because they know that there is no room to house them in the jail.
“We do everything we can not to lock people up,” Gilliam said.
Day concurred saying, “We are making prosecutorial decisions based on jail capacity. We are making decisions based on finances and not public safety.”
Demrow said that he wants one of the two magistrates present Tuesday night, David Faulkner and Terry Wilcher, to make a motion at the next Fiscal Court meeting to agree to proceed on building a new jail.
Wilcher said that he would vote for the jail if Gooch could guarantee him that it wouldn’t increase taxes.
Gooch said, “I can’t do that, but I can guarantee you that if you don’t do anything, you are going to have to raise taxes.”
Wilcher questioned Demrow on the need to vote before the election and that’s when things got a little ugly.
Demrow said anyone who wants to delay the vote until after the election is a political coward.
Wilcher said Demrow will not get a vote from the Fiscal Court before the election, and Demrow told him that he still runs the court.
Wilcher then said, “You never ran this county, that’s Buckwheat (Gilbert) talking, that’s what that is.”
Demrow said today there will be an item on the agenda for the Oct. 26 Fiscal Court meeting calling on magistrates to recognize the need for a new jail and agree to move the process forward. It will require a roll-call vote, Demrow said.
“I urge anyone who wants to see how this vote turns out to be at the courthouse at 9 a.m. on the 26th,” he said.
Despite Wilcher’s resistance, there was almost universal agreement to move forward.
Industrial Authority Executive Director Matt Belcher said he has surveyed similar organizations in other counties and found that locating a jail in an industrial park as is proposed in Lincoln does not have a negative impact on the property.
Belcher said, “In Martin County, an industrial park was actually built around the (Big Sandy) prison.”
Magistrate Faulkner, who appears to be the go-to man on raising the issue at the next Fiscal Court meeting, said, “I don’t want to build a jail, but I know that we have to build a jail. I have been told by someone that I trust that if we don’t build a new jail, this jail will be closed by the end of the year. We’re living on borrowed time if we don’t take charge of our own destiny.”