The Fayette Citizen-News Page
Wednesday, June 30, 1999
County quietly assembles $1.4 million jail parcels

Staff Writer

Fayette County has spent $1.4 million in hopes of saving millions more on its plans for a new jail and judicial complex.

The county has just completed purchase of seven parcels of property, about 21 acres in all, tieing the 13-acre existing jail/courthouse complex with the 33-acre planned future site, creating a new 67-acre parcel that will be big enough to hold not only the jail and courthouse, but also a future administrative complex.

“Over the lifetime of this project, we're going to save several million dollars,” said county Commissioner Greg Dunn, who helped negotiate the purchases as a member of the law enforcement committee. “Now we can use the old jail and the old courthouse rather than building completely new buildings,” he said.

When Dunn joined the County Commission in January, plans were already in place to build a new jail and judicial complex on the 33-acre site, on Lee Street just south of the current site. The current jail facility was built in pods so that it could be expanded, but there wasn't enough land available, consultants said.

The lack of land and the need to keep the jail near the courthouse for ease of transporting prisoners to court drove earlier decisions to build a new complex and tear down the old buildings.

“When I looked at an aerial view of the property, it became clear that if we owned these four houses on Long Avenue it would allow us to use the old jail rather than get rid of it,” Dunn said. And it would provide room for a future new administrative complex, he said.

“We're maxed out here,” Dunn said of the current County Administrative Complex in the former Stonewall Village. “There's nothing more we can do to expand here.” It will be several years before county offices outgrow the facility, but when that time comes, it will be much less expensive to build on the site of the jail/judicial complex than to go shopping for property, Dunn said.

County officials began quietly negotiating to buy the four houses, a little over four acres in all.

As a committee of Sheriff's Department and county officials began to discuss potential designs for a “county campus,” the need for more property purchases became obvious, he said.

In addition to the Long Avenue homes, the county bought 2.7 acres owned by Elizabeth Whitlock's Largin Company, on Lee Street just north of the county Senior Center, and then four acres south of the Senior Center, owned by Brent Scarbrough.

The final piece of the puzzle was 10 acres owned by the Dorothy Redwine Black estate, fronting on Jimmy Mayfield Boulevard.

“I couldn't figure out how to make the site work without the Black property,” said Dunn. That piece moves the entrance to Jimmy Mayfield instead of Lee Street, a better choice, Dunn said, because Lee Street already carries traffic for Fayetteville's municipal complex.

Tentative plans are to make three or four acres available to move the Senior Center to Jimmy Mayfield as well, placing it next to the county campus entrance, but right on the highway so clients of the center have easier access.

Commissioners didn't have to dip into the county general fund to buy the land, because previous boards have been putting money away for years, knowing the jail and courthouse would have to be replaced. “There was enough there” to finance the land purchases,” said Dunn.

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