FULTON- With the brick facade in place and fences going up, the once bare 9.58 acre plot of land on Joe Staub Road is finally taking shape in the form of a new county jail.

“So far, everything is going according to plan,” said Itawamba County Board of Supervisors President Bill Sheffield.

The new jail site will have space to house 154 total inmates with a total of four outdoor recreation areas, a fully functional kitchen and infirmary. The facility will also house new Sheriff’s Department offices and a new 911 facility. The main holding area of the jail is built around a central tower so that just a few jailers can oversee the entire inmate population. The structure is designed to withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour.

“We’re getting close,” Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson told The Times in a text exchange, adding that construction on the new Sheriff’s offices would begin soon.

In September 2019, the board engaged in an agreement with Three Rivers Investment Company to build the jail and lease it back to the county. According to Itawamba County Administrator Gary Franks, the average annual lease will be approximately $800,000 for a period of 20 years.

The long anticipated deal was finalized last April between county officials and Three Rivers Community Investment Corporation. The groups secured financing through a certificate of participation note for $10,785,000 covering construction cost, closing cost, and interim interest expense.

Notice to proceed with the 21,750-square-foot, 140-bed jail was issued to West Brothers Construction of Columbus by Three Rivers on May 11, 2020.

Itawamba County Board of Supervisors approved purchases for the new 911 facility located at the jail site this past October.

According to Itawamba County Emergency Management Coordinator Patrick Homan, the total price for the operating equipment, which includes the necessary computers, maps with editing software, a mobile radio dispatch box to allow dispatchers to work off site in the event of a major emergency and more, comes to approximately $564,333.29 including a warranty. Of that amount, approximately $380,000 will be paid for with grant money acquired by Homan.

During the initial planning phases, Dickinson, along with Itawamba County Jail Administrator Vicky Russell, cited overcrowding as the leading concern on a long list of reasons why a new jail was a necessity.

In addition to overcrowding, the current jail, located between Fulton City Hall and Itawamba County Pratt Memorial Library, is in a serious state of disrepair. The oldest portions of the jail have been in use for over seventy years and have been plagued with a leaky roof and other maintenance issues.

The overcrowding dilemma led Sheriff Chris Dickinson to begin housing prisoners in Tishomingo County at a cost to the county of $25 a day per prisoner. The tab for the service has reached between $10,000 and $15,000 a month, some $180,000 a year.

Officials agreed the county was spending too much money on a temporary fix to a permanent problem and the solution was to build a suitable jail.

Dickinson told The Times last June that the Sheriff’s Department has partnered with the Fulton Family Resource Center (FFRC) and Itawamba Community College (ICC) to provide adult basic education classes as well as other enrichment programs for the inmates housed at their $10.875 million dollar facility.

Buddy Collins, Regional Coordinator of the FFRC, explained that the FFRC works with ICC to provide high school equivalency test training, parenting conflict resolution, and fatherhood classes which would all be offered at the new jail site. Beyond that, classes will be determined closer to opening when needs could be more accurately assessed.

“We expect to be in by the middle of January,” Dickinson told The Times. “We’d like to be in sooner, but I feel confident we’ll be working full time out of the new facility in January.”

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