Community members tour new jail additions

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Several local community members attended the jail addition open house event held at the Barry County Jail in Cassville on March 5. Sheriff Mick Epperly and Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren conducted tours of the new facilities.

"It's unfortunate that we have to build a jail to house 80 beds, but the way the trend runs in southwest Missouri about every jail is full," said Warren. "We just hope that we will not fill up the new addition in the first six months."

The Barry County Jail's new addition was constructed using two 24-bed pods. Four cells, which offer three beds and a metal toilet, sink and table, are located on the upper and lower level of each section of the new addition.

"This is going to mean a lot for Barry County," said Epperly. "In a lot of cases, we have had warrants out, and we haven't been able to bring those individuals in because we didn't have a place to put them. We have had a backlog for some time."

The new addition will give the Barry County Jail 48 more beds and more than double the capacity of the original jail, which offers 32 beds.

"This will also address safety issues in the jail," said Epperly. "Being overcrowded created a monster. We would have fights in the jail and other problems. As our county continues to grow, this will help us out a lot."

In addition to 16 new cells, the jail addition offers two new day rooms where prisoners will be allowed to spend nearly 12 hours each day.

"Each pod has phones that the prisoners can use," said Epperly. "We will have control over the phones though. In an emergency, like during a drug search, we will be able to shut the phones off."

The new additions will address the safety of both the prisoners and the law enforcement personnel working in the jail. In the past, overcrowding has created dangerous situations for deputies working in the facility.

"The completion of the new addition will mean a lot for our liability," said Warren. "Over the last year, we have had approximately 48 prisoners at all times. This will mean a lot for the safety of our people working in the jail."

Construction on the new addition began in April of 2008. Although the project was originally scheduled to be completed by October of last year, it was delayed by weather conditions and supplies not arriving on time.

"The new addition is pretty nice," said Wayne Hendrix, southern commissioner. "I think Mick is ready to begin using it, because this has been a long, drawn-out process. It should help the county save some money, because we will not have to farm out prisoners like we have in the past."

The jail addition project cost the county around $1 million. Last year, the commission approved a $481,000 bid from Wehr Construction, of Springfield, which served as general contractor for the project. A $472,815 bid was also awarded to Tindall Corp., of Charlotte, N.C., for the two pre-fabricated jail pods.

The Barry County Commission was able to save $800,000 in capital project funds to support the jail addition. An additional $200,000 was borrowed from Security Bank of Southwest Missouri to complete the project.

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