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Jail renovation to start in Feb.

Jail renovation to start in Feb.

By Alton Mitchell

There are major changes on tap for the Chambers County Detention Facility on the horizon. The changes that are set to begin in the coming months will update the facility and create more space for the detention facility ahead of a future need that may be decades down the line.

Major Mike Parrish, of the Chambers County Sheriff’s Department took time out of his schedule to update the public on some of those upcoming changes. “We have problems and have to fix them”, Major Parrish explained. As he updated the expansion project that is set for the detention facility.

Members of the Chambers County Sheriff’s Department and Chambers County Commission have been looking for a solution to update the jail that is more than three decades old and after looking at several options a plan is on the table that may start construction as soon as February of 2018.

The new expansion and renovation will be done in two phases and upon its completion the jail will nearly double its inmate holding capacity. Major Parrish notes that there is no problem at the jail with overcrowding in the facility that was designed to house 136 inmates. In its Monday morning press release the jail showed it was housing only 130 inmates at the time. That number fluctuates, but usually lies around 115 inmates at the jail at any given time, which is below the 136 capacities.

The age of the current facility is beginning to become evident and renovations are now needed for the facility which is the reasoning behind the expansion. Major Parrish notes that the greatest renovation need involves the plumbing of the facility, which at times has created some flooding related situations in the facility. Some of the problems that need to be repaired cannot be repaired while inmates are in certain areas of the facility, which is why the jail is going to tackle the renovation project in phases.

The first steps of phase one are already in the works. The former impound lot was moved across Alabama Avenue to a new area. The location of the former impound lot will be graded soon and make way for three new housing blocks. Each of those blocks will be designed to house up to 40 inmates, meaning space for at least 120 new inmates at the jail. Upon the completion of the new three inmate blocks the jail will relocate inmates currently housed at the jail to those blocks so crews can go in and begin renovations on the existing parts of the jail.

The renovations of the current jail will include making the needed plumbing updates to the facility. The additional housing areas will also allow the jail to be able to house non-violent and violent female inmates in different housing units of the jail. That currently is not available at the jail.

The expansion of the jail will not end at the renovations of the existing facility. The second phase of the project will begin afterwards and will include the demolition of the current older section of the jail which is located towards the eastern side of the facility. Major Parrish notes that the facility which maybe upwards or 70 to 80 years old will be torn down and a new building will be constructed. That new facility will include an updated kitchen, larger laundry room, new sally port for inmate arrivals, and administrative offices for the jail and sheriff’s department. Major Parrish did not have a timeline of when the second phase of the project should begin.

The project is in its final stages to begin construction. The designs of the project have been completed by PH&J Architects, Inc. of Montgomery. The $4.7 million project is just awaiting the completion of all the legal steps to begin construction. Although it is not yet set in stone, Major Parrish is hopeful that ground will be broken on phase one by February. There is also no seen need to move any inmates to surrounding facilities during the construction project as the jail does have an ample amount of space to house inmates.