County to break ground on jail project Monday

Nolan County Sheriff David Warren gave an update on the county jail project during the Sweetwater Kiwanis Club meeting held on Wednesday at Broadway Baptist Church.Construction at the new facility, located on 211 Avenger Field Road, began on Monday, Sept. 30. A groundbreaking has been set for Monday at 1:30 p.m.The facility will include a county jail with 96 beds along with a sheriff's office. At this time, Nolan County is one of just a few counties that still has their jail within their courthouse.The need for a new building is evident, as the jail and offices have been in the courthouse for the past 37 years. Questions have already been raised as to what will happen once the jail and offices vacate the courthouse, but Sheriff Warren said that most of the space will be used for records storage and no space will remain empty.With the new facility, more employees will be required. Thirty-four employees will be in the new building (three of those will be hired in July 2014)--a steady increase from 14 workers on hand when Sheriff Warren began his work with the county in 1985.Presently, Sheriff Warren works alongside 11 deputies, five dispatchers and 19 jailers with two jail supervisors.The project is expected to cost $12.2 million and be completed by the deadline of Oct. 31, 2014. Although the bond election was held in November 2012, the work by the architect and construction company was delayed for several reasons, most notably cost overruns.Not only is the county currently undertaking the jail and sheriff's office project, but the work on the exterior of the Nolan County Courthouse. Currently, metal framework is being done, but the first shipment of stone is expected to arrive on Oct. 20.A brief question and answer session wrapped up the presentation. All of the county prisoners will stay in the new facility, and the county has no plans to contract with other counties to keep extra prisoners.For the past 13 years--since January 2000, the Nolan County jail has dealt with overcrowding. While the current facility has a 54-bed capacity, they have only been able to keep around 45 inmates due to requirements of separation by gender and type of offender.Municipal offenders will also be kept in the county jail, as an interlocal agreement between the city and county exchanges the housing of city prisoners for fire-fighting efforts beyond the city limits. Additionally, the old granite from the courthouse will not be used on the new building. Due to the fact that the granite is so heavy, research shows that the cost of taking the granite to its quarry to be cut would be too expensive.And with the incoming activity from the oil development, the business and population within the jail already has and is expected to increase. While cuts in cosmetics like landscaping, equipment and security were made, beds and spacing were not cut in order to accommodate for the anticipated increase and especially to stay within a reasonable price.The county was able to acquire the property from the local VFW, which is still located within the city limits. Inmates will be kept inside, including times of recreational activity, as natural sunlight will enter the respective area.Sheriff Warren concluded by saying that he hopes that the facility will not only endure and serve the county for decades to come, but that it will be a building that the citizens will be proud of.