Pace vows no input on jail site

Published 12:05 pm Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Proposals from the public on the best place to build a jail could be in county supervisors’ hands in weeks — a process Sheriff Martin Pace said Tuesday should remain free of input from his office.

“Whether they build it in Bovina or downtown Vicksburg, that’s completely and totally up to the Board of Supervisors,” Pace told local chapter members of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees. “It’s my job to staff it and keep the people safe.”

Earlier this week, the county board agreed to take proposals for any available land in Warren County to build a jail to replace the current one at Cherry and Grove streets. Guidelines in a consultant study said 20 to 50 acres are needed to build a jail capable of housing at least 350 inmates.

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Pace’s preferences to stay as close as possible to vital county functions, such as the courthouse and annex, were first mentioned last fall by District 1 Supervisor David McDonald as the three-term supervisor mulled a run for chancery clerk and contrasted the sheriff’s idea with his own desire to build a jail at Ceres industrial park. Pace reiterated the sentiment in December, citing security and logistical reasons for wanting a site in the city.

McDonald re-filed for supervisor in January when qualifying opened, and Pace has picked up a challenger in this year’s elections.

On Tuesday, the 14-year sheriff said he plans to leave the location question alone as supervisors plot moves.

“I don’t have a vote,” Pace said. “Just like the director of the public library doesn’t have a vote on where the public library is built, I don’t have a vote on where the jail is built.”

A search for land will determine whether to ask the Legislature to pass a local and private bill allowing Warren to build a jail anywhere in the county, regardless of municipal lines. State law indicates property that a county purchases for vital infrastructure such as jails be located within a county seat. The law has been backed up by an advisory opinion from the attorney general.

Oldest parts of the current jail were built in 1905 and lost certification to house state inmates in 2007 due to substandard conditions.

Inclusion of a unit reserved for state prisoners would restart the use of inmate labor to pick up trash along roadways, which, if used on a beat-like district system, could supplement road work, Pace said after his address.