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Allen Parish moving forward on new jail

Last Modified: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 11:39 AM

By Doris Maricle / American Press

OBERLIN — The Allen Parish Police Jury and Allen Parish Law Enforcement District are moving forward on a cooperative endeavor agreement to build a $8.5 million parish jail.

The measure allows the sheriff to build a 179-bed facility and lease it to the Police Jury for up to $240,000 a year for 30 years, with an option to continue the lease for $1 a year for the next 99 years.

The 40,000-square-foot facility will replace the current 42-bed jail, owned by the Police Jury. The building is more than 45 years old, overcrowded and in disrepair, said Sheriff Doug Hebert III

Under the proposed agreement, the Police Jury will cover insurance, utilities and maintenance costs. The Sheriff’s Office will pay the costs associated with administrative offices, to also be located at the facility.

“I think this plan is affordable for everybody,” Hebert said. “I tried to build something you can absolutely afford.

‘’We could build a 250-bed facility and fill it up, but we’d have to lay people off to pay for it. We hesitated to create a situation where you couldn’t afford to pay for it.”

Plans for the new facility call for three, 40-man pods for 120 inmates to be built on a 45-acre sheriff-owned tract on La. 26, just west of Oberlin. Twenty-six other beds will hold females and trusties. An additional 24-beds will be reserved as “lockdown cells,” Hebert said.

The current jail averages 70-80 inmates. Hebert expects a spike in the number after the new facility is built and more outstanding warrants are served. He would like to keep the general population at 110, he said.

“I think we are getting what we need at a price we can afford,” Police Juror Creig Vizena said.

The meeting with the Police Jury was the first since the State Bond Commission gave approval last month to the Allen Parish Law Enforcement District to sell $5.5 million in revenue bonds to build the facility. Other funding sources, including revenues from a gaming compact with the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana and capital improvement funds, will also help fund the project, Hebert said.

“There’s been a lot of work put into this by the sheriff and district attorney, I am ready to go and don’t want anything to slow it down,” Police Jury President John Strother said.

Parish officials have been pushing for a new jail since 2002 when the current jail was deemed inadequate. Problems with funding and disputes over the location and contracts have delayed the project.

Hebert hopes bonds for the project will be sold within the next 30-60, days with construction underway by the summer. The project should take about a year to complete, he said.

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