Jackson Co. leaders say alternative jail design may save millions

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Before the month is out Jackson County Supervisors say they should have an answer to a $12 million question. The county is looking to build a new jail in Pascagoula. As plans were moving forward, another company came in with claims it had a better and cheaper design. County leaders said before they make any decisions, they want to make sure they're getting the best deal for taxpayers.

Jackson County supervisors said pods have eased jail overcrowding to the point they don't have to make rush decisions on how the new jail should be built. Several months ago, county officials were well into a design for a $32 million jail when another architectural firm approached with another offer. Supervisors said they were compelled to take a closer look.

"A company come along with a different type of design. One that is a wheel and spoke kind of design," said Mike Mangum, Jackson County Supervisor. "They said they could guarantee us that they could save us $10 or $12 million. So at that point, we said, 'That's worth looking at.'"

The county has hired a third party to compare the two jail designs and submit a report. Supervisors said they should have the findings in about two or three weeks.

The $32 million design is a linear style. The other is a $20 to $22 million design called "Wheel and Spoke," so several cell blocks can all be observed from one central control room. The second company claims that design would require less man power for security.

Supervisors said if they go with the second design, the county may borrow less money or spend the difference elsewhere.

"Certainly that would mean that we could possibly do some other project if we thought there was a need, and there are some other needs," said Mangum. "Our mission to start with was to try to build this building without a tax increase. The economy has slowed down and things have happened so certainly that would help us fulfill that promise. "

Once supervisors find out all the facts, they can make a decision. No matter what they choose, it will be awhile before Jackson County prisoners are housed in a new jail.

Mangum said, "It would certainly be at least a year on it. Depending on which structure we go with, construction time may be 12, 16, 18 months to build.

The city of Pascagoula just approved a special zoning permit allowing the Jackson County jail to use the two pods for another year.

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