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Funds for new jail ready next month

JPs to vote on $465,000 land purchase

Posted: August 25, 2014 at 3:13 a.m.

VAN BUREN — Crawford County officials will be able to buy 16 acres of land for a new county jail next month when money from jail bonds becomes available. The Crawford County Quorum Court voted Aug. 18Monday to issue the bonds, which will yield $21.9 million for design and construction of a new county jail on U.S. 64 just outside Van Buren’s eastern border. Bond counsel told the quorum court members the money from the bond sale will become available for them to spend after Sept. 24. County Judge John Hall said he expects the Quorum Court to vote at its Sept. 15 meeting to spend $465,000 to buy the land for the jail on Sept. 25. Nothing stands in the county’s way of buying the land, Hall said. Surveys, soil studies and environmental investigations have been completed and have not turned up any problems that would hamper the purchase of the property, he said. County officials want to build a new jail on the land for $20 million. The jail would hold 260 prisoners and house the sheriff’s office. The size of the lot will allow for future expansion of the jail. Bond money for the purchase of the land, design and planning, and other nonconstruction expenses has been set aside for those purposes and will not cut into the construction budget, Hall said. He said he expected jail construction to be advertised for bidding by March 1 under the direction of project construction manager and architect SouthBuild Team LLC of Collierville, Tenn. Construction is expected to take 18 to 20 months. The bonds that are providing the money for the project will be paid off over eight to 10 years with proceeds from a 0.5 percent sales tax that county voters approved in May. The tax will sunset when the construction debt is paid off. Another 0.25 percent sales tax that voters approved in the same election will be used to fund the additional operating expenses of the new jail and for other law enforcement needs. That tax will be permanent. The county’s current 20-year-old jail in downtown Van Buren has a capacity of 88 prisoners but has been chronically overcrowded and in violation of state jail standards for years. Because of the overcrowding, officials say they have had to free criminals who should be in jail.

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