Crawford County Jail Nears Completion

VAN BUREN, Ark. — Construction on the Crawford County jail in Van Buren is on track to open this fall and is currently more than $1 million under budget.

The project is about 70 percent complete after breaking ground in May 2015, reported 40/29 News. Crews are currently working on installing new kitchen equipment and painting the interior of the sheriff’s department. Crews are also still working on the jail’s electrical system. Lights have already been installed, and the air-conditioning and roof are already in place, so weather continues to not be a factor in construction.

The about $20 million facility will be approximately 64,000 square feet and will include a 307-bed jail, the sheriff’s office, 9-1-1 dispatching center and arraignment court with the ability to add a full justice center in the future. Collierville, Tenn.-based South Built TEAM is serving as the architect on the new jail project. The octagon-shaped facility features key design elements including the use of modular precast due to the size of the project, said Jim Langford, architect with South Built TEAM.

The current jail, located in downtown Van Buren, opened in 1989 and was initially built to hold 64 inmates. The county expanded the jail to hold 88 inmates, but inmate populations often exceeded 100 inmates, reported ArkansasOnline. This history of overcrowding led the jail to be put on probation several times after failing state inspections.

The funding for the project comes from two sales taxes that voters narrowly passed in May 2014. One ballot question for a 0.5 percent sales tax passed by a margin of 4,199 to 3,974, according to election records. That tax will end when it pays off bonds that were sold to raise the construction money. The second ballot question, for a permanent 0.25 percent sales tax to provide operating funds for the new jail, passed 4,279 to 3,981, according to ArkansasOnline.

If the project remains on schedule, it should debut in mid-October. If it is completed with money left over, that money will be used towards bonds, reported 40/29 News.