"We are still trying to conceptualize what can be done on the lot, and if it is even feasible to renovate the old jail," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said. "That being said, there have been a couple of ideas that have been brought up which won't really work."
Recently, the Clay County Community Corrections Board formed a research committee to look into the possibility of constructing a new building on the lot for the department, should the old jail be demolished.
At the same time, Heaton and the Clay County Commissioners are researching whether the old jail could be brought up to code to be used for evidence storage/maintenance, or if a separate building should be constructed.
"There are a lot of factors to consider, but inevitably, it is the Commissioner's call on what to do with the old jail and the lot," Heaton told The Brazil Times.
He added when the cost of renovating the old jail was researched in 2006 after the Clay County Justice Center was completed, it was estimated at $375,000.
"Who knows what the cost would be now with prices going up on just about everything," he said. "Some of the issues right now are that it has been gutted, and while it is a good shell, there is still asbestos in the building and we have to take into consideration the cost of redoing the utilities and plumbing."
During a recent meeting of the committee, Commissioners' President Charlie Brown said he received a rough estimate of $170,000 for a building which would suit their needs.
"Add onto that the $25,000 estimate for demolishing the old jail, and it seems like a more cost-effective option than trying to renovate," Heaton said. "But that is why the committee was formed so we could look into every available option."
The public has inquired about a couple of potential options, which Heaton said are no longer on the board.
"One of the suggestions was to turn the old jail into a juvenile detention center," he said. "The problem with that is there are so many more requirements to house juveniles -- like additional staffing, bigger rooms and needing counselors -- compared to adult offenders, that if we did create a detention center, we would only be able to house six or seven at one time. So while it is a good idea in theory, it would not be the most cost-effective way of spending taxpayer money."
The other idea brought up was creating a small claims/traffic court so Clay Circuit and Superior Courts could focus more on the amount of criminal cases, which is creating a logjam in the system.
"That idea isn't really within our control because the state would have to approve a bill to give us permission to set up a third court," Heaton told The Brazil Times. "On top of that, there would be the cost of hiring additional staff to work with another judge, along with possible costs of working after hours, which the county currently does not have the breathing room in the budget to take that on."
As far as the committee's current progress, Heaton said they have met with an architect to come up with preliminary designs which would meet state code requirements for both buildings.
"Those drawings will help us figure out a rough estimate of how much everything could cost, and whether or not we can actually pull it off," he said. "At the very least, if it would not be cost-effective, we will have the time to go another direction."