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Jeff Davis Police Jury discusses plans for new jail

Last Modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 7:26 PM

By Doris Maricle / American Press

JENNINGS — The Jefferson Davis Parish Police Jury continues to seek funding and consider location options for a new parish jail.

Police jurors on Wednesday discussed plans to attend a meeting in Baton Rouge on Feb. 13 to meet with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s commissioner of administration, Kristy Nichols, to draw financial support for the project.

“We are still trying to make sure we get the funding and are looking at several different options overall,” Police Jury President Donald Woods said.

Former state Sen. Jerry Theunissen, who has been working with the Police Jury to obtain funding, said the project had received support from former administrator Paul Rainwater.

Funding for the project is the main issue at this time, with several funding options being considered, Woods said.

Officials are also eyeing several sites for the jail, including the former Southern Barbecue manufacturing facility on U.S. 90 just west of Jennings.

“We need to see if we can find land with a building already on it or build from the bare ground up,” Woods said. “We need to consider the best economical way to come up with a new jail.”

Land option considerations include location, availability of utilities and pre-existing structures.

A jail study completed in August recommended that the parish build an $8 million, 200-inmate facility with annual operating costs of $2.35 million.

The study further recommended that the facility be built to consolidate the Welsh, Lake Arthur, Jennings and parish jails. The cost of operating the facility would be $32.15 per inmate per day, which is $12.21 less than the $44.36 to operate all four facilities independently, according to the study.

The study was conducted by Michael M. Kurth, professor of economics at McNeese State University, and Daryl V. Burckel, professor of accounting at McNeese.

Parish voters overwhelmingly rejected a quarter-cent sales tax to fund a jail and sheriff’s administration office in May 2009.

The tax would have raised $1.1 million a year to build and maintain a $12 million facility that was to be built just east of the parish courthouse in Jennings.

Preliminary plans called for a 22,000-square-foot jail that would have increased inmate capacity from 65 to 228 and included a medical isolation unit. The remaining space would have included a 911 command center.

The project would have been funded by a 40-year, low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Four other sites were considered, but officials ruled them out because of construction and inmate transportation costs, opposition from residents, and a lack of utilities.

In July 1998, voters defeated a half-cent sales tax that would have funded construction of a jail and would have paid for Sheriff’s Office salaries.

The parish jail capacity has remained relatively unchanged since the jail was first contracted in 1964, according to the study.

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