Grand jury says need for new jail needs to be expedited; something we all know

Published 8:31 pm Friday, February 15, 2019

We all learned something this week that most of us have known for a long time.

The need for a new Warren County jail facility needs to happen now instead of later, according to a recent report for the latest Warren County grand jury.

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

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It also recommends that each grand jury have the opportunity to present its recommendations to the Warren County Board of 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. Highway 80 where the former Pinewood Hotel once stood for a new jail, and board President Richard George said this week the demolition of the buildings on the site is underway.

But it’s not as simple as just removing the buildings on the site and constructing a new jail.

State law, George 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.”

George is correct. But it’s not like the supervisors have not known there’s been a need for a new jail facility for a number of years. Taking action should have happened years ago.