Bourbon County’s journey to building a new jail stalled briefly when the county commissioners decided earlier this week not to purchase property they had previously selected for the site, located just south of the city limits on the east side of Interstate 69.
Sheriff Bill Martin said this is a process that has carried on for six years as he and others in the sheriff’s office advocated for the construction of a new jail, replacing the current one with several structural problems, that could house inmates from outside of Bourbon County as well, offering an extra means of revenue for the county.
“There has been a setback,” Martin said of the decision made Tuesday that forced him to return to the drawing board in searching for a site.
About 30 members of the community attended the commissioners’ meeting Tuesday about the site, expressing their concern since the location of the proposed property was only about 1,000 feet from the Christian Learning Center.
Representatives from the school and others of the community brought signed petitions opposing that location of the jail.
Angela Simon, owner of the Bids and Dibs store downtown, was one such member of the community who opposed the location, even having a petition for shop visitors to sign in opposition of it.
“I’m a child advocate first,” said Simon, a former public school teacher. “I feel that with a little more looking we could do better.”
Commissioner Barbara Albright and the other commissioners agreed Tuesday to continue the search when they heard how much that location concerned members of the community as well as a business located in that area.
“It was apparent that there was going to be quite a bit of discontent over the location,” Albright said.
Martin and the commissioners continue that search for property, a minimum of five acres in size although the sheriff said they would prefer more than that so there is space for potential expansions in the future, such as bringing other criminal justice departments to the same location.
Some members of the community have come forward with suggestions, and Martin said they are looking through them to find a plot that is suitable, saying some mentioned to them have been in the flood plain, which their insurance could not cover.
“We really appreciate the input we’re getting,” Albright said, saying they continue to look at suggested sites. “We really appreciate people’s interest in it. We’re just working together to find a spot for the new jail.”
Both Albright and Martin said they want to find a location as soon as possible, preferably one with utilities available and without buildings that would need torn down, though neither is required.
“The longer we put this off, the more it’s going to cost us,” Martin said.
Originally, Martin had proposed a jail with 110 beds so the county could house inmates from other counties, but with the delay and the rise in construction fees, that number is now down to 70 beds. If it goes much lower, Martin said the project may soon cost more than it is worth.
Martin said any residents with questions, suggestions or concerns about the project can visit with him, saying he has an open-door policy on the topic. Each Tuesday, the commissioners also set aside 9:45-10:30 a.m. for members of the community who might have questions about the project.
Some of the misconceptions Martin said he has heard include the idea that the inmates would have an open yard where they will be outdoors and in line of sight with the surrounding residents, but Martin assures that it will be completely enclosed with inmates unable to see outside the structure.
“Wherever the jail is going to be, it’s going to be the safest place you can be,” Martin says, saying the added security around the perimeter of the jail will also guarantee extra coverage of neighboring areas of the community.