Fiscal Court examines the cost of a building a new 700-bed county jail

Magistrate MT Harned examins handouts during Tuesday’s Nelson Fiscal Court meeting.

Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Tuesday,, March 5, 2024 — Nelson Fiscal Court spent more than an hour in a discussion about the pros and cons of building a new, much larger county jail.

Hopkinsville-based architect Kevin Sharp provided a slide presentation where he showed the court how, in his estimation, a much larger jail could financially break even — or actually make money.

Judge-Executive Tim Hutchins listens while Fiscal Court asks questions about the costs and financing of a new county jail.

Sharp provided a list of large jails built in recent years, and he provided what those facilities cost to build. He then showed the court cost estimates for three sizes of jail, along with estimates of their cost, and the cost to finance them.

The county will most likely lose money on any jail if they build it with fewer than 700 beds. That’s the number Sharp said is the best chance for the county to break even or make money on the jail operation, even with a substantial monthly bond payment..

Sharp also had estimates on the cost of keeping the existing jail operating, versus closing the jail and transporting prisoners to out-of-county jails. Over 25 years, Sharp estimated continued operation of the existing jail would cost the county $107.3 million. Closing the jail would be even more expensive due to transportation costs — for a total of $120.2 million in 25 years.

Sharp showed the court cost estimates for three sizes of jail facilities, along with the costs to borrow the money over 20 and 25 years.

The largest jail — 700 beds — would cost as much as $57.3 million to build. A smaller 500-bed jail would still cost as much as $49.5 million.

The current jail is close to 40 years old, and the county spends nearly $2 million annually to fund its operation. Sharp said if the county builds a new jail smaller than 700 beds, the court can expect to subsidize the operation of a new one too.

Magistrate Keith Metcalfe questioned the likelihood that the operation of new jail would ever break even or make money as Sharp suggested. He posed a question to his fellow magistrates — “How many of you have gotten calls asking us to build a new jail?”

Metcalfe said he had never gotten a single call from anyone asking for a new jail.

Judge-Executive Tim Hutchins spent the final minutes of the meeting discussing the benefits of building a new 700-bed jail, including an increase in the possible inmates who can join the inmate work program. He also noted that a larger jail would bring in more commissary funds. He said this money — which is controlled by the jailer — could be used to by more equipment for the inmate work program, including the possible purchase of a new garbage truck.

Hutchins made it clear that he wants to hear from county residents with their thoughts on building a new jail. He said residents can call his office by phone at (502) 348-1800, or email him at ncjudge@bardstown.com.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Please follow and like us:

Comments are closed

Subscribe to get new posts in your email!