YELLVILLE, Ark. — Facing closure for being out of compliance with state regulations, the current Marion County 20-bed jail, located in Yellville, now faces potential replacement by a new, 62-bed jail costing an estimated $7.2 million.
This cost was reported by SouthBuild consultant, Jim Langford, after he conducted extensive research and examined two potential sites. The Tennessee-based consultant firm developed a strategy for the county and established a timeline for moving ahead with this project.
However, in order to begin construction by August 2016, a proposed jail plan would have to be put before Marion County voters by November or December. Furthermore, construction documents would then have to be completed by April or May, and documents for bid would be put out in June. Ideally, construction will be completed by the 2017-2018 winter.
To complete the plan, the county is considering asking voters to approve a one-cent sales tax to fund the new jail. In agreement with the idea, County Judge Terry Ott has expressed that the only options are to build a new jail or to pay another county to house Marion County’s prisoners.
Ott, along with quorum court members, have decided that initiating a sales tax would be the most feasible means for funding the new jail. Although the maximum the county can ask for is 1 percent, Langford advises the county to put aside a sunset clause, a provision providing that a particular law will expire on a particular date, on the sales tax the county will need to keep at least a portion of it to fund both the operation and maintenance of the jail.
Construction costs amount to less than 20 percent of the total cost of a jail over 30 years, according to the National Institute of Justice. Nevertheless, operation and maintenance will account for the rest, resulting in long-term expenses.
A 1 percent sales tax would bring in a little more than $10 million over 10 years, and that would be more than enough to pay off jail bonds, said County Attorney Sam Pasthing in a statement.
Preparing to build a new jail, the initial plan includes the 62-bed facility with an option to add a 32-bed unit to it. Increasing the facility to a 94-bed jail would cost an additional $557,882 for a total of $7,832,688. It would require a 5 percent cost to add 50 percent more space to the jail, which would be expandable to house about 20 inmates, according to Langford.
Along with the jail, this new facility will be used to house the county’s sheriff’s office and the 911-dispatch center. Additionally, the 21,000 square-foot, one-story facility will come to use concentric staffing patterns. This arrangement could help keep staff and related operating expenses down.