Right: One of the technological marvels in the new jail is the video arraignment room. The room, outfitted with a video camera and microphone, will allow inmates to be arraigned without leaving the jail. Clay County Clerk of the Works Gary Rogers said the feature will free members of the Sheriff's Department from having to "babysit" inmates on their trips to the courthouse and back.
Construction crews installed glass fiber-reinforced concrete tubing over the steel support posts on the facade of the new Clay County Jail Wednesday, one of the many finishing touches to be added before the building is finally put to use.
After more than a year of construction and a series of delays, the $11 million construction project is slowly winding down. Clay County Clerk of the Works Gary Rogers said the project is 98 percent complete, and he expects the jail to open no later than Dec.1. Rogers said delays in construction are normal for projects of this magnitude.
"We've had an average number of delays," he said. "It's an extremely complex building, but the project actually went really well. I've been on a lot worse."
Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said the idea of moving his department into a new state-of-the-art facility had not yet sunk in.
"It's going to be a big change from where we're at now to what we're coming to," he said. "I can't express it in words right now. It's phenomenal."
Members of the Clay County Sheriff's Department began training scenarios in the new building Wednesday. The sessions will familiarize members of the department with the basic operations of the jail, from processing prisoners to taking out the trash.
"When they feel comfortable with the training and their impending move, they'll make the transition," Rogers said.
Heaton said he and the members of his department will be prepared when the construction is completed.
"We've come a long way with this project," he said. "As soon as they do turn it over to us, we're gonna be ready."
Rogers said his crew, which averaged 30 people a day at the height of construction, has shrunk steadily as the building nears completion. Fifteen to 20 crew members are still working on the project.
"We're down to one plumber, for instance," he said. "It's just a slow progression down until we wind up."
Rogers said he expects the building to be fully operational by Nov. 1. At that point, only minor detail work will remain: "Blinds will be installed, paper towels in the dispensers, things like that," Rogers said.
As he surveyed the finishing touches that are being added to the new jail, Rogers couldn't help but crack a smile.
"I've been involved since the site of the jail was a bare piece of dirt," he said. "It's tremendously satisfying."