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Financing OK’d for new Jeff Davis Parish jail

Last Modified: Friday, October 18, 2013 2:28 PM

By Doris Maricle / American Press

JENNINGS — The State Bond Commission approved $10 million in financing Thursday for a new jail in Jeff Davis Parish.

“This is a big hurdle that we went through,” said Police Jury President Donald Woods. “How often do you get $10 million put in your hands for free?”

The approval includes $835,000 in first-year funding for planning and construction of a new regional consolidated jail facility. An additional $9,165,000 is included in future funding, which Woods hopes to move up in priority.

The Police Jury has committed $480,000 from an oil and gas lawsuit settlement to help fund the project.

“I’m happy that we got this done,” he said. “It’s a big step forward.”

The next step of the project will be to ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax to help maintain the new facility, he said. The tax could be presented to voters as early as April.

“Hopefully we can go with a half-cent sales tax so that everybody pays,” Woods said. “It won’t be just the landowners, but every company that comes through town will help pay for it.

“We need to get people together and help support it and move it forward because if we can get the tax passed, we will be ready to roll.”

Plans for the facility call for construction of a 200-inmate jail to ease overcrowding and safety concerns at the 62-bed facility, built in 1964.

Sheriff Ivy Woods has said the jail is undersized, outdated, in need of replacement and filled to capacity.

Among the sites being considered for the jail is the former Southern Barbecue manufacturing facility, on a 23-acre site on U.S. 90, just west of Jennings. The facility closed last year.

Plans for the new jail began moving forward last year after the Police Jury commissioned a study to consider replacing the jail and consolidating the operations of municipal jails in Jennings, Welsh and Lake Arthur.

The study recommended the parish build an $8 million, 200-inmate jail with an annual operating cost of $2.35 million.

The cost to operate the new facility would be $32.14 per inmate per day — $12.21 less than the $44.36 daily cost to run all four facilities independently, according to the study.

The study listed the benefits of a new jail, including lower operating costs due to modern construction and new technology; savings associated with operating larger facilities; reduced legal liability; more efficient operation for police and the courts; improved security; and expandable capacity.

The new facility would also have better on-site medical care for inmates, helping lower the cost of inmate health care and medical transportation.

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