by Max Brantley
County Judge Buddy Villines released a memo today saying he thought it was financially feasible to move ahead with the second phase of Sheriff Doc Holladay's plan to increase county jail space.
(Noted: It is an election year. And the neighborhood bulletin boards hum daily with the news of yet another burglary committed by one of the professional creeps who revolve in and out of custody.)
Step one, repair of the old jail, is underway and scheduled for completion in October.
Step two is construction of a new 240-bed facility within the fenced perimeter of the existing facility. Design is underway. It could cost $4.5 million to build and $2.7 milion to operate.
Villines told the Quorum Court in a memo that revenues are coming in sufficiently and enough surplus has accrued that the county can set aside $1.885 million to pay off some existing short-term debt (which can't be retired early) and use the existing payments on the debt for $4.5 million in additional borrowing to build the jail. "The time is now," Villines said. The county has $447,000 in leftover state money as a down payment.
Operating costs? Villines proposes to come up with half the $2.7 million annual cost and have Little Rock and North Little Rock pay the rest. They are currently spending about $650,000 annually for 60 beds in Faulkner County. An additional $700,000 from the two cities, he figures, would net the cities 180 more jail beds than they are currently paying for.
Will the cities go for it? "I don't know," Villines said. If not, he said the county would open the facility at half capacity.