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Friday, February 17, 2017
The New Jail
Blogger Comments: We are excited about the new jail opening. We will have to wait and see who the first inmates to move in the jail will be. However, our sources have shared with us that Sheriff Franklin plans to place only the trustees in the new jail. Time will tell.
Morgan County Jail addition officially opens; Decatur to close city jail
By Keith Clines Staff Writer
Decatur should be able to start closing its jail in two weeks when city inmates begin serving their time in the Morgan County Jail.
Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin said Thursday morning that her office will begin processing Decatur City Jail inmates into the county jail March 1 as part of a 2013 agreement between the city and county that allows the city to close its jail.
Franklin joined county and city officials Thursday morning for the official opening of the $11 million, 450-bed addition. The Decatur Building Department issued a certificate of occupancy for the building on Tuesday after 20 months of construction.
“Today is the day we start the process of moving in,” Franklin said, adding that her office has work to complete before inmates can be housed in the addition.
The city’s seven female inmates were moved to the Morgan County Jail three months ago. Its 19 male inmates will be moved March 1. All of the city inmates are serving sentences for misdemeanor offenses.
A 2013 agreement between Decatur and Morgan County called for the city to help pay for the jail addition in return for reserving up to 120 beds in the facility for city inmates.
Decatur paid the county $1 million when construction began and has another $1 million payment due with the issuance of the certificate of occupancy. The city will pay $100,000 a month to help cover operating costs of the new jail wing.
Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling said closing the city jail will make City Hall safer.
“I will work with the council to re-purpose the jail for usable space,” he said.
The new addition will increase the Morgan County Jail’s capacity to 950 inmates. Decatur will join all the other towns and municipalities in Morgan County, which already house their inmates in the county jail.
“A true metro jail is good for everybody,” Franklin said.
Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said opening the jail addition is the end of a long process that started four years ago.
“It’s a great looking place,” he said.
Franklin said the county didn’t want the jail addition to be an eyesore in downtown Decatur. John Godwin, the project architect from GBW Architects, said the county spent more money on the addition to make it look better. He said visitors from out of town have mistaken the addition for a conference center.
Godwin said there will be a change order to the $9.6 million construction contract with Lee Builders Inc. that will put construction about $10,000 over budget. A budget overrun of only about one-tenth of 1 percent for a project this size is to be commended, Godwin said.
Receiving the certificate of occupancy ends Godwin’s and Lee Builders’ involvement in the project.
“It’s like giving our baby away,” Godwin said.
The commission earlier this week created 23 new jailer positions to handle the additional jail capacity. The estimated $920,000 a year in salaries and benefits for the new jailers will be covered by Decatur’s $1.2 million a year from its monthly payments, Long has said.