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Jail done, now county can move on

It was, as Chairman Jesse McWilliams put on Sunday, “a long time coming.” An estimated 300 people attended Sunday’s open house of the new Butler County Correctional Facility. Elected officials came to relish in the satisfaction of a visible solution to Butler County’s “jail problem”. Finally, the decrepit building, which has housed prisoners for nearly 80 years, will be retired in November as inmates are transferred into the new facility.

While county officials soaked in the praise of seeing a job through to completion, taxpayers took advantage of the opportunity to see what their money had paid for. The new correctional facility is a 13,000 square-foot building and can hold 94 inmates, almost twice that of the current jail. It cost nearly $6 million (after an initial budget of $4 million) to build and both Sheriff Kenny Harden and McWilliams said they know the monthly bill for the new jail would exceed that of the current building with the addition of central air and heating and other operating costs.

“We just don’t know right now what it will cost until we get in there,” said McWilliams.

The good thing is the facility meets the needs of the county and addresses numerous concerns with the former jail, including the issue of safety, for both the correctional officers on staff as well as inmates and visitors.

“There are a lot of people who visit the jail constantly – from ministers, family members, nurses and doctors,” said District Judge MacDonald Russell. “This new jail is constructed in a way to allow for the protection of those people who come to help the prisoners on a daily basis.”

While $6 million is a lot of money to invest in a building the majority of Butler County’s citizens will never see the inside of, like it or not, the county needed a new jail.

The county has cleared this hurdle. Now is the time to move forward on other business.