County looking at jail options, city offers to help

Published 6:36 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Warren County Board of Supervisors President Richard George wants county officials to be “in accord with how we mean to deal with and finance” the new county jail.

Last week, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. made it known the city has given up on the idea of building a city jail due to the expense and offered once again to chip in funding on the county facility.

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“We are going to wait and see what the supervisors do on the (county) jail going forward,” Flaggs said during a city meeting last week, indicating he had a meeting with Supervisors William Banks and Charles Selmon. Flaggs said Banks and Selmon “left the opportunity open for us to discuss a design that would accommodate at least 35 (city prisoners).

“If the board of supervisors opens up the opportunity for us to negotiate with them, we can take the $4.4 million that we were looking at in the master plan to build the jail, and collaborate with them and save the taxpayers in the city money.”

The Supervisors, who voted last year to build the county jail at the Ceres Industrial Park, have not taken Flaggs up on his funding offer. Flaggs and local economic development officials are not in favor of building the county jail at the industrial park, fearing a negative impact on future development.

By state law, the county has the authority to build a jail, but must have the approval of the county seat if it is located outside the city limits in order to get local and private legislation from the Mississippi Legislature.

“It is our sole responsibility to do it, according to the law,” George told his fellow board members during a work session Monday. “We can’t stray from that.”

Selmon and Banks told the board they did not agree to anything during their meeting with Flaggs. Board Attorney Blake Teller also met with officials from the Mississippi Development Authority and the local state legislative delegation in Jackson last week to discuss the location of the county jail at the industrial park and what impact they believe it would have at Ceres.

“We already knew what their answer was going to be,” Teller said. “They’re about economic development for the state of Mississippi and they’re about facilitating development in all the counties, but they feel like Warren County has a rare gem of a 800-acre industrial park. So their position is that they’re not telling the county what to do, but to put a jail at the economic development location that we have would not be advisable.”

Since the city and county officials are not in agreement on the location of the county jail, the legislatures will not support a bill to grant a local-private bill.

“They want everybody on the same page,” Teller said. “The message I was left with from the legislators and MDA officials was united we stand and divided we fall.” 

Selmon said Ceres is probably the best location for a jail based upon it having less impact on the community, but is also the worst location based up on the impact it may have on economic development.

“We’re just going to have to pick a site and build a jail at a location that will best benefit the community,” Selmon said.

The board is now focusing their attention on the Pinewood Hotel location on Highway 80 for the county jail, a site the supervisors had previously considered.

“It’s got ample road frontage to access it,” George said.