Taxpayers to spend less on new Fayette County jail construction

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WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE, Ohio (WCMH) — The nostalgia of an 1882 jail built in Fayette County was going to cost $20 million to replace. The voters agreed to a levy and construction bond in May to pay an additional $66 per $100,000 residence. The tax would have been paid during a 40 year period.

“We’ve got a gross maximum payment on paper and it’s $20 million,” said Fayette County Commissioner Tony Anderson. “We would like to see it come in a little less and we’ll stand on everyone’s neck until we get there.”

Fayette County Jail built in 1885
Fayette County Jail built in 1885. Photo by Tony Mirones

This week the county commissioners signed the loan for the construction on the new facility. Originally the payback would have been at a four percent annual percentage rate. When the loan was closed on Monday, July 21, the percentage rate dropped to 3.5 percent. Anderson roughly translated that to equal $1.5 million less to pay. While the payments will be the same as the four percent, the loan will be for three to four years fewer.

The need for a new jail boils down to programming. There are needs for recreational areas to make sure prisoners get exercise, a nursing station for health clinics, plus rehabilitation from drug abuse. The 137-year-old building is not sufficient to facilitate these types of programs.

Tony Anderson holds plans for new $20 million dollar jail
Fayette County Commissioner Tony Anderson holds plans for a new $20 million dollar jail. Photo By Tony Mirones

“There’s a lot of human rights considerations,” said Anderson. “While the pictures of the jail look quite plush, when you walk in and they slam the door behind you, you know someone else has the key. There’s a punishment level associated with that.”

The conditions at the current jail are less than desirable for anyone. Sheriff Stanforth explained during an interview with in March, that the toilets flood regularly, there is lead paint beneath layers of other paint and other health concerns. The deal is simple, whatever the prisoners are experiencing, so are his employees. WAS the only news outlet to take you on a tour of the current jail in March. We showed you the original solid steel door, jail cell bars, and the keys that open the behemoth sized doors. From the cellar to the attic, the building’s age was apparent. Communication wires were hung along brick walls with chipped paint in the basement. Hundreds of boxes were stacked and lined along hallways in the second story of what was originally the sheriff’s residence. All of it will change in the new building except the huge door that is the entrance to the cells of the jail.

Original Jail Door
This is the original Fayette County Jail door. It has had a few modifications since 1885, but it is just as usable today. The piece of history will be used and displayed at the new jail. Photo by Tony Mirones

“It was put there, I believe in the late 1800s,” said Anderson. “It will come out here. We’ll find a decorative place to put that door so that a continuation and historical preservation will continue.”

There are a lot of items inside the 1882 jail that interested buyers may want to purchase. Anderson did not shut down the idea of selling off items from the building.

“We’ll have a conversation about that as we move forward,” Anderson said. “There’s value in everything to somebody. So we may find an opportunity to have that kind of sale.”

Anderson reiterated the importance of trying to keep costs low on the project. He cited that 16 percent of the registered voters actually went to the polls in May. Fifty-five percent of them approved the ballot measure.

“We’ve got more work to do to try and get the trust of the public to say that we are wisely spending their money,” Anderson said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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