5-member group to study jail sites

Published 12:02 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2011

By Danny Barrett Jr.


A five-member panel is in place to review eight offers for land to build a new jail, with a meeting date to unseal the proposals to be determined.

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Supervisors approved Sheriff Martin Pace, District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, County Administrator John Smith, Warren County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Randy Lewis and Brian Robbins, with ABMB Engineers Inc.

In March, county supervisors put out feelers for parcels of land anywhere in Vicksburg and Warren County at least 15 acres in size, within reasonable distance from major transportation routes and utilities and other criteria.

An initial meeting date for the committee to open and vet each proposal will be set this month, said Smith, whose recommendation on the panel’s membership was accepted without dissent.

While details on how each submission fits the board’s criteria remain sealed, the city tipped its hand publicly May 10 when the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 2-1 to offer up to 200 acres off Fisher Ferry Road eyed for a sports complex since 2003. South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman voted no.

Additional considerations mentioned for vetting each offer have included terrain, proximity to existing detention and court facilities, what types of planned and existing development are near the parcel and the possible impact to quality of life on the surrounding area. Prices to be negotiated between the county and landowner are subject to three value appraisals chosen jointly by the two parties, according to guidelines of the request for proposals.

Quality of the land search will determine whether supervisors ask the Legislature for a local and private bill to enable construction of a jail inside or outside city limits. State law indicates property that a county purchases for vital infrastructure such as jails be located within a county seat, and the law has been backed up by an advisory opinion from the attorney general.

Guidelines in a 2009-10 consultant study said 20 to 50 acres are needed to build a jail capable of housing at least 350 inmates. Costs have been estimated at $20 million to $30 million. The oldest parts of the current jail at Cherry and Grove streets were built in 1905. In 2007, the facility was decertified to house state inmates due to poor condition.