Initial plans to move the Henry County Jail and other sheriff's department offices to the former Henry County Youth Center look "promising," Commissioner Sam Beckenbaugh said last week.
On Thursday, Beckenbaugh, other county officials and a representative from a company that constructs correctional facilities toured the former youth center, which is located near Memorial Park.
Now, that company is examining its findings and developing a report on what it would cost to renovate the youth center, which has been empty since the end of 2011, to suit the needs of the Henry County Jail.
That cost estimate could determine if the Henry County Commissioners continue considering moving the jail.
"That's going to be the sticking point," Beckenbaugh said last week.
However, officials also say that the cost of renovating the former youth center would likely be much cheaper than the cost of building a new jail.
The Henry County Jail opened in its current location in downtown New Castle in about 1980. Sheriff Butch Baker said the jail is aging and suffers from overcrowding and roof leaks. Those leaks are causing mold problems.
"Sooner or later, somebody's going to have to address this building," Baker said of the jail.
Eventually, Baker said, the choice before the Henry County Council could be to either renovate the youth center for the jail for a few million dollars now or to wait and to spend $20 million or $30 million to build a new jail in the future.
With renovations, the vacant youth center could house 170 inmates, a similar number to the current jail, Baker said.
The youth center, which is set up as a correctional facility, already includes what would be two "pods" for secure inmates, the sheriff said. The renovations would include adding another "pod" for secure inmates, Baker added.
The youth center, which is located near Memorial Park, was constructed in 1993. For about 18 years, it housed juveniles until the facility closed because of financial problems at the end of 2011.
So far, the county hasn't found another agency willing to take on the former youth center.
Baker said on Friday that moving the jail and other sheriff's department offices to the former youth center is an idea worth considering.
"As the sheriff, I feel obligated to at least explore the possibility," Baker added.