County continues search for new jail site, asks community for suggestions

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.

The current jail is located near the Sheriff's Office and county courthouse.
The current jail is located near the Sheriff’s Office and county courthouse.

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.

6 thoughts on “County continues search for new jail site, asks community for suggestions”

  1. “minimum of five acres in size although the sheriff said they would prefer more than that so there is space for potential expansions”………..This sounds like the plan all along has been to turn Ft Scott into a “prison town”……I can see the obvious economic benefits to that, but at what long-term cost? It is my experience that when you build a larger jail or prison, you end up having the inmates “families” relocate to that area also……next thing you know the whole demographic of your town has changed, and NOT for the better……..Keep Ft Scott small, keep it family friendly, keep it a nice safe place to live……once a town goes the other way, it’s nearly impossible to come back……

    1. While initially there was talk about building a jail large enough to “pay for itself” by hosting inmates from other areas, it later sounded like that wouldn’t actually end up covering the cost and I believe that is one of the reasons they decided on a smaller facility.

  2. I want them to build up on the same location. They are my neighbors and I love having their presence in my backyard.

    1. They’re my neighbors too, and I’m fine with them right where they are. But I wouldn’t want it expanded to be a larger jail, taking in prisoners from other areas. Honestly, having the jail connected to the Sherrif’s dept and the courthouse is the correct way to do it. “One-stop shopping” so to speak, LOL…..

      1. I know that at one time, they thought it would be more expensive to renovate the existing jail than to just build a new one somewhere else. However, I’m not sure how much the cost of running prisoners back and forth to the court was factored in. Maybe they are planning on making more use of the video conferencing to minimize the back and forth.

  3. If they really want a larger facility, they should use the old middle school. They could put a tunnel from the courthouse to the old school to move prisoners, or have a weekly “walk of shame” where they are paraded publically down National…….The old middle school could easily hold a 100 prisoners and I’m sure it could be renovated much cheaper than building from the ground up somewhere else

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