Grand jury says supervisors need to speed up construction of new jail

Published 8:11 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Warren County Board of Supervisors needs to “speed up” planning and building the new county jail.

That’s the recommendation from the Warren County grand jury in its report released Feb. 4 at the close of its session.

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

It also recommends that each grand jury have the opportunity to present its recommendations to the supervisors, and that the recommendations be compiled and tracked to show whether they are acted on.

The need for a new jail has been a recurring theme in past grand jury reports as the county’s 112-year-old jail has proven inadequate to handle the county’s needs.

The supervisors in August bought 47 acres on U.S. 80, where the former Pinewood Hotel once stood, for a new jail, and board President Richard George said the demolition of the buildings on the site is underway.

“And as soon as that’s complete, we will start next on removal of the existing pond — drain it, dry it and fill it.”

But George said more activity is involved before the county can begin considering starting construction.

State law, he said, outlines how local government can spend tax money.

“There is a process with public money, and you have to have a plan, and anything to do with the environment, requires a permit,” he said.

“If those members of the grand jury have ever applied for a permit, they would be aware of how long it takes to get one, regardless of how much preparation you’ve done,” he said. “There are things we have no control over.”

He said the board has met with Sheriff Martin Pace and is awaiting his recommendation on the type of facility.

“That established, we’ll go search for a suitable architect to draw plans,” George said. “That’s the track we’re following; it’s the only one we can follow.

“(There are) delays to getting permits, advertising, all those things that go along with spending public money. It can be time consuming, but there are some things that cannot be changed.”

Consult sheriff

Besides its recommendation to expedite the planning and construction of the new jail, the grand jury report indicated the board needs to consult the sheriff on what offices should be in the old jail, including his staffing plan for 24-hour assistance at the present jail.

“In addition, because we realize it will take a number of years before the new jail is completed, improvements need to be made to the current jail,” according to the report.

The jury also recommended installing a courtroom in the old jail once it is vacated for use by the city and the county, and the sheriff be consulted about updating computers and cameras in the jail and patrol cars “to determine if there is sufficient equipment to meet the demands of the job.”

Other items in the report include:

• The grand jury toured the Warren County Court House and reported problems like peeling paint, poor lighting, and water damage.

• Recommended the supervisors support newly elected county/youth court judge Marcie Southerland.

• Recommended money be allocated to the sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office for assembly-type programs in local schools to teach students state laws as a way to deter future criminal activity.

• Considered 74 cases, returning 66 true bills, or indictments, including 101 counts.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John