As Fayette County looks for ways to reduce crowding at the jail, it is becoming more likely that the former Dollar General building will become a jail for female prisoners. The county also has been approached by a nearby county about going together on a regional jail.
Fayette County purchased the Dollar General building at 301 Central Ave. for $110,550 in October. Although a final decision has not been made about the best use for the building, the county commissioners seem to be leaning in the direction of making it into a jail for women. The building is just south of the current jail.
“We’ve talked about the need for expanding our women’s block,” Commissioner Gary Naylor said during Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Commissioners.
Sheriff Joey Laughlin, who did not attend the meeting, said he supports using the former store building for women’s quarters.
“My idea was to move all the female prisoners there and also have a block for work release,” Laughlin said. “Anything we can do to reduce the jail population.”
Laughlin said the jail is intended to hold 114 prisoners. Housing the women in another building would alleviate the overcrowding. The jail had 141 inmates on Tuesday. Of those, 28 were women.
The other two commissioners agreed with Naylor that the county should be “reaching out” to architects who could evaluate the building and provide a feasibility study for possible uses.
Although the project is still just in a very early phase, “This is a big win moving forward,” Laughlin said. “The feasibility studies will give us more insight in whatever we can do with the building.”
Laughlin said at least one Indianapolis-based architect firm, DLZ, has visited the building and given the county a cost estimate for a feasibility study. That company indicated the building could probably be used for a jail after being made at least as secure as the current jail, Laughlin said.
Naylor asked Jane Downard, the county auditor, to make contact with other firms to obtain costs for a feasibility study. Commissioner president Leota King said she would make a point of talking with architects at a state conference of county commissioners that she will be attending soon.
In an unrelated jail matter, King read a letter from Kim Cronk, president of the Henry County Board of Commissioners in New Castle. Cronk asked if Fayette County would be interested in going together on a regional jail that would serve several counties.
Commissioners Naylor and Mark Nobbe said it might be worthwhile to have conversation with Henry County about that idea. Naylor said, “It might not go anywhere but it’s worth meeting with him.” He thought that some of the longer-term prisoners held here might be held in a regional facility. Inmates awaiting court proceedings might still be held locally, he said.
But Laughlin, who said he was not aware of the Henry County idea until contact by the Connersville News-Examiner, said it does not sound very practical to him, although he would be willing to listen to it. Laughlin said the main problem he sees would be with transportation of inmates to and from court. Of the current jail population, 114 are inmates who have active court cases. Jail officers are kept very busy escorting pre-sentence inmates for court proceedings.