County breaks ground on new jail

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


County officials who worked tirelessly toward making the new Henry County Law Enforcement Center a reality broke ground on the lot at 800 S. Grand Ave. Wednesday, May 16.

With construction beginning next week, county Sheriff Rich McNamee said that in the next month, the vibrant grass will be turned to a brown, ugly and muddy mess. A year from now, however, the county will have a modest, yet new facility all their own.

?The entire county is going to feel the economic impact of this,? McNamee said to the crowd of 100 people who gathered Wednesday morning. ?Yesterday, we wrote out checks for rent to our neighbors to two different counties. With the conclusion of the project, we?re going to start seeing that revenue come back. Our tax dollars are going to stay right here on this property.?

McNamee said the cost of housing prisoners in other counties last month was $32,000.

McNamee is the fifth county sheriff to attempt to pull this project together, he said as he recognized his predecessors? efforts. The current sheriff also thanked the Henry County Board of Supervisors for their vision for the project and called out County Auditor Shelly Barber for giving him direction along the way.

?Shelly taught me a lot and helped me answer a lot of questions,? McNamee said. ?She really likes her helmet,? he added, pointing out Barber sporting a white Midwest Construction Consultants hard hat.

Additionally, McNamee thanked the COPS Committee; the staff and volunteers from the Sheriff?s Office; and the voters of Henry County who voted with 84.7 percent approval for the center. McNamee finally thanked his family for their patience with him as he worked on this project.

?It?s a long road shared by many and without each and every one of us participating, this would never have come to fruition,? McNamee said. ?Obviously between everyone I mentioned, we got our message through that this was something that needed to be done for the community.?

Following the groundbreaking, Supervisor Greg Moeller was in awe of the turnout of support from the community. He foresees the project taking 15 to 17 months to complete.

Supervisor Marc Lindeen summarized his emotions after the groundbreaking in one word: ?Wonderful,? he said with a huge grin. ?It?s a beautiful day, good weather. (It) exemplifies what the center means to us.?

Warden at Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility Jay Nelson, who attended the groundbreaking, said the facility is pleased to partner with Henry County. ?There was a real need for this jail. We?re happy to have them as neighbors,? he added.

While the project hit some road bumps throughout the process of securing land for the center and getting the project bidded, McNamee said that the turnout of the day shows the public still has their backs. ?It?s great to see the public trusts us,? he said. ?Look who?s here just to see us dig a shovel full of dirt.?

John Hansen with Midwest Construction Consultants is the construction manager on the project.