McDonald again calls for jail at Ceres

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, October 14, 2010

District 1 Supervisor David McDonald Wednesday renewed his call for a new Warren County jail to be at Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex, and was quickly met with opposition from the chairman of the board that operates the spread near Flowers.

“I’ve felt all along we’d be better off going to Ceres,” McDonald said following an address to the Vicksburg Lions Club, referring to the industrial park’s easternmost flanks, farthest from nearly all its current industrial spaces, as ideal. “The spec building, and east of the spec building, all we’ve got out there is the (Mississippi National Guard) armory; we’ve got easy access to it from the interstate.”

Contacted later, Johnny Moss, the chairman of the Warren County Port Commission, which operates Ceres, said he is against the transformation of the spec building.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“I don’t think we’re really in favor of that,” he said. “It’s the most visible part of our park, we’ve had several people look at it. It’s still a lure; it’s still doing its job.”

The shell of a building, constructed in 1995 to lure industrial tenants, sits on 10 flat, county-owned acres with another 500 rural acres behind it.

McDonald believes the 64,000-square-foot building perfectly fits consultants’ prescription for a new jail in Warren County, though the same group said the site is too far from the courthouse and the middle of Vicksburg.

McDonald said Wednesday he’s confident fellow supervisors will agree to ask area lawmakers to file legislation to allow the county to build a jail outside city limits, mimicking a bill passed in a special session in August that allowed DeSoto County to build one outside its four municipalities.

The three-term supervisor, who also is chairman of a committee looking at ways to revamp the justice system, said it would require a resolution of support from the city and at least save the county the cost of buying property as construction costs run in the tens of millions.

“Another thing about an in-town location, there’s not an area without going in and tearing some houses down,” McDonald told the civic club, noting any acquisition of private land could serve only to remove a chunk of tax revenue off the rolls. “We don’t want to do that. We’re glad we’re going to be able to look outside city limits.”

In comments to questioners following the address, McDonald cast the industrial park as the lone ready-made location to base the best possible facility.

Ideal dimensions of a new jail dictate a 350-bed facility on a 20- to 50-acre site, with capacity expandable to 650 beds in the future, according to the study completed in April by Voorhis/Robertson Justice Services. Jail staff would have to triple compared to current levels after the first year, the study also noted. A property tax increase, built into a higher millage rate, appears inevitable to finance the estimated $30 million project.

McDonald characterized the study’s findings as solid, but cited separate private analysis of the recommended design to a “Cadillac” while a smaller facility with smaller ancillary office space would be a “Chevrolet” the county might find more affordable.

A resolution is needed from the city to support the county leaving the city limits to build a jail, McDonald said.

Also contacted later, Mayor Paul Winfield said the city is focused on contracting with the county to house people arrested by Vicksburg police. Helping to make land available, either via sale or lending tacit support to a local/private, would need full board discussion, Winfield said. No money was budgeted this year for assisting jail construction. Winfield has voiced general support for city funds paying some of the cost, but no specific proportion has been nailed down.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Winfield said.