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County moves ahead with new jail plans

During last week’s fiscal court meeting, the courtroom filled with a round of applause as magistrates voted to hire Codell Construction of Winchester as project manager and to solicit bids to build a new Jessamine County Jail.

“Voting to put the project to bid is going to give us a real estimate of what the project is going to cost,” Jessamine County Jailer Jon Sallee said. “If built to design and run efficiently, it will not be any burden on the taxpayers. The new facility will quadruple the program space giving inmates more opportunity to better themselves and hopefully become more productive once they are released.”

After drawings were completed last August by CMW architects, the jail project was met with light tension last Tuesday as not all members of the fiscal court approved of the plan to seek bids and wanted to hold a public hearing prior to any decision being made.

“If we are thinking about expanding the jail we need to have a federal bond rating in place to increase the revenue and we don’t know how much the jail is going to cost in the end,” magistrate Terry Meckstroth said. “This is going to be the biggest project in Jessamine County history. We have a system of government of the people, by the people, and for the people; and for lack of public input, I am going to make a motion that we have a public hearing before the end of August regarding the jail expansion.”

Magistrate Tim Vaughn seconded Meckstroth’s motion; however, other magistrates present believed enough time had passed and the project needed to move forward without a public hearing.

“It seems like it is something that has been needed for over a decade,” Magistrate Justin Ray said. “Maybe it is just me only being here three and a half years, but it is something that was needed 10 years before I got on the board. I would have thought the committee would have done their due diligence going through any steps necessary before now.”

Magistrate April Rose Prather agreed with Ray and proceeded to ask Meckstroth if he had been down to the jail recently to take a tour of the facility.

“I have not,” Meckstroth said. “(But) I understand the conditions.”

Judge-Executive David West moved to vote on Meckstroth’s motion for a public hearing at the end of August, and the motion failed 2-4. Both Meckstroth and Vaughn voted in favor of a public hearing, with Ray, Morgan, Floyd and Prather voting against the idea.

Prather motioned for the court to move forward with the bid from Codell Construction, which Morgan seconded. The vote passed 4-2 in favor of the bid with Meckstroth and Vaughn voting against it.

Sallee said it would take eight to 12 weeks for the bidding process to be completed. Once finished, the fiscal court will have 90 days to approve the bids. Going over 90 days for approval would result in the need to ask for an extension or a complete rebid on the entire project.

“Once we see the results of the bidding, hopefully the fiscal court will move swiftly to start construction,” Sallee said. “We cannot afford, as a community, to keep going down the same path we have been and expecting different results.”