Warren County Supervisors consider lease purchase for new jail

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Warren County supervisors on Monday considered the possibility of a lease-purchase option to help fund the construction of a new jail off U.S. 80 as they reviewed potential requirements to include in a request for proposals for the project.

The county is preparing the RFP to find a company with the qualifications to build a new jail and replace the more than 100-year-old facility that presently houses prisoners either awaiting trial or transfer to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

“I’m encouraged that the Board of Supervisors is moving forward with this much-needed project,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said.

Board President Jeff Holland said the board hopes to be able to release the RFP in January, “but certainly by February,” and then have the proposals back in the spring to be able to evaluate.

“We are looking for people to propose all parts of the RFP and we will evaluate the individual pieces accordingly,” he said. “We’re talking about is a facility with a baseline of about 275 beds as an initial size and then we would have the capability to expand through the years to 350.”

“Facilities like the kitchen would be built to handle 350 people,” he said. “In order for it to scale, all the support facilities would be designed to handle the maximum size of the facility if we can afford to do it and that’s part of our analysis, is to understand what we can afford.”

He said the board is definitely considering a lease-purchase agreement as one possible way to finance building the new jail.

“We’ll evaluate it; we’ll evaluate anything that is the most cost-effective opportunity for the citizens,” Holland said.

The lease-purchase process the county would use is similar to the city of Vicksburg’s agreement with Sports Force to build the Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi.

The county owns the jail site property but would set up the entire project to include the cost of the land, site preparation, construction and other costs and sell it to a third party that is formed to help finance the project. The county then buys the property back by making payments through the term of the lease, which is usually 20 years, and owns the property.

“The county is fully capable of running the financial part of this itself, (but) if someone were to come up with a financial opportunity that’s better than what we can do, we’ll consider it,” Holland said. “But we’re not constrained to take all of the pieces together; we can pick and choose between the pieces.”

He said the board is considering a timeline for the project, but added any schedule to build the new jail will depend on the time it takes to design the facility and what contractors tell the board they can do based on the supply chain at the time.

“Clearly, we would hope to have it completed as soon as we can, because we have an aged jail now,” Holland said. “We’re trying to take the best of everything. We want the best quality we can possibly get.”

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.

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