On June 25, Long County Sheriff Cecil Nobles hosted a public meeting at the Long County Courthouse where he presented information to the community about the possible establishment of a county jail. About 30 residents attended the meeting.
“Last year, we (the county) spent about $500,000 on housing prisoners, and that was just the cost to keep them in other jails. That doesn’t include the costs to transport them or the costs involved with paying for my deputies,” Nobles said.
According to the sheriff, the county currently has to pay other jails to house more than 50 prisoners every month, and he said that to deal with the growth, the county needs a 120-bed jail facility.
The sheriff also said any extra space in the proposed facility could be used to house federal prisoners, for which the county would be compensated.
“If we can get federal prisoners, we can pay for a jail in a short period of time,” he said.
After Nobles spoke, Rusty McCall Jr. who is with McCall and Associates, made a presentation and described several options for building a jail.
According to McCall, the county can build either a 60-bed facility or a 120-bed facility. There also is the option of using contract labor or prison labor for the construction
“You can use prison labor for a 60-bed facility, but it would be about the same overall cost to use local contractors due to the increased time it would take to complete the project and the costs you would have to pay to continue housing your prisoners while the jail was completed,” he said.
McCall also said building a 60-bed facility would only accommodate the county’s current needs. It does not take into account any future needs, nor would it allow the county to house other counties’ prisoners.
McCall said the overall cost for a 60-bed jail, and the costs to pay for prisoners to be housed as it is constructed, would be around $7.3 million with an annual operating cost of around $1.1 million. For a 120-bed jail, McCall said, the total cost would be around $8.5 million with an annual operating cost just over $1.1 million, but he added that the larger facility has potential to bring in nearly $1 million annually for housing other counties’ prisoners.
After his presentation, McCall fielded questions.
Long County Commissioner Bobby Walker asked for clarification on how the costs could be the same for operating the larger facility. McCall said that the cost would be about the same because the number of employees wouldn’t change. The extra costs associated with the larger jail would be for items such as utilities and food for additional inmates.
Commissioner Cliff DeLoach asked whether the county would be required to have a ratio of one prison guard for every 12 inmates, increasing the need for additional employees. McCall said no.
He also told the group how the project could be financed.
“The question you all want to know is, where does the money come from?” McCall said. “Well, your county, like most others, doesn’t generate enough money from SPLOST to build a jail you need in a reasonable time, but there is money through the USDA.”
According to McCall, the county could finance the jail over a 40-year period at a rate of around 4 percent annually. The payments would be deferred until the project is complete and the county has moved into the facility
McCall was asked if he was aware of any loan/grant programs through the USDA for a project such as this, and he said, “I’ve heard of smaller projects being funded with grants, but for a jail, no, I haven’t ever heard of any grants, just loans.”
McCall said that another reason to consider building a jail in the county, whether a 60-bed jail or a 120-bed jail, was that they both would bring 23 jobs into the county.