Jackson Co. citizens question proposed jail decisions

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - There's yet another twist in the controversy surrounding the rebuilding of the antiquated Jackson County jail. A coast construction company presented the Board of Supervisors Monday with the pros and cons of two new designs. But some citizens feel the board is making a lot of the jail decisions behind closed doors.

Ernestine Black owns a dress shop that's just feet away from the old Jackson County jail. She wants to know the Supervisors' latest plans for building a new one.

"I feel we should be notified and let us voice our opinion," Black said.

Three years ago, she and other residents voted down a $22 million bond to pay for a new jail.

"So they are going a different direction, from what I understand today. But still we are against whatever they are doing. We don't know what they are doing."

Supervisor John McKay understands the constituents' concerns, but said the board has been open about rebuilding this aging facility.

"No, this is not been kept quiet and this has not been under the table," McKay said. "What we have done is hired Yates to do a comparison between the two jails, and that has taken about three to four months.

Yates is the construction company that's been researching what's the better buy.  Supervisors will choose from either a brick and mortar dormitory jail, or the spoke and wheel design, which is a modular building.

"Until Yates brought us a comparison between the two structures back, we had nothing to tell the residents. So it is no need in stirring something up when there is nothing."

Board of Supervisors' President Melton Harris said, from what Yates research shows, the modular jail would be 21,000 square feet smaller, 37 fewer beds, and would be a couple of millions of dollars cheaper to build.

"We still have more questions: We want to make sure which can be built fastest.  The square footage, it's 21,000 square feet, less than the other, and is this space that we need," Harris said. "As far as time service, the length of time both buildings will hold up. Those are questions we want Yates to come back and answer for us."

Harris and McKay said those answers will also be made public, so no will feel like they are left in the dark.

"We want to make sure that we can address all the issues up front, so this will be a speedy process for us," Harris said.

Supervisor McKay said before Yates presented the evaluation to the public Monday, the board did go into executive session to discuss design criteria and cost issues. The board expects to get the final jail evaluation on September 6th.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.