Sheriff, COPS, host open house for Law Enforcement Center blueprints

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


A year has come and gone since Henry County residents voted an emphatic ?yes? to approve a $9.1 million bond referendum to finance a new county law enforcement center.

In honor of that, Henry County Sheriff Rich McNamee and members of the Citizens Organized for Public Safety (COPS) hosted an open house at the courthouse Thursday, Aug. 2, giving Henry County residents the opportunity to peruse the blueprints for the Law Enforcement Center and see how bond funds are being spent.

Today, the land has been dug; a steel construction office building, which will later serve as storage for the jail, has been erected; and footings for the main building will be poured next week.

?We just want to remain transparent and give the public the opportunity to know where their money is going,? McNamee said. ?We?re being very conservative with their tax dollars.?

The existing facility, built in 1963, houses only eight beds in three cells and is non-compliant with ADA regulations. Overflow inmates are transported to other facilities and the county pays a per diem expense for each inmate.

While the original proposal for the new law enforcement center was to accommodate 44 inmate beds, bids for the project came in so low the plans were expanded to accommodate 96 beds. Perhaps other counties will send their prisoners here, McNamee said.

Additionally, a needs assessment showed a projection that in 30 years, Henry County would need to be a 95-bed jail according to their current history and growth, McNamee added.

?You never hear of anything coming in under bid,? McNamee said with enthusiasm.

Mike Hampton, co-chair of the COPS committee, felt positive about the inquiries from the public during the open house. From what it?s going to look like to how it?s going to fit into the community, the questions asked by residents of Henry County showed their excitement.

?I drive by once a week to see what progress has been made,? Hampton admitted. ?By winter, people are going to see a lot of development out there, a lot of progress.?

Bob Hunt, of Mt. Pleasant, arrived at the courthouse Thursday evening curious about the blueprints. As a hobby, Hunt takes pictures of construction projects around the community and has taken a special interest in the construction of the law enforcement center.

Hunt, who voted in the special election last year, thinks the jail still is a good idea and will be more secure and efficient than the county?s current structure.

While construction still is on track, construction manager John Hanson harped on the mucky soil they were working with that will not sustain the pressure they need it to. There have been challenges getting the soil compacted, but Hanson noted the importance of the task for a good foundation.

The water main will be going in the next couple of weeks and soon after Mt. Pleasant Electric will be at work on the law enforcement center, Hanson said during a Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday, Aug. 2.

Although McNamee and Hanson were happy to discuss plans with Henry County residents during the open house, Hanson asked that pedestrians stop driving into the work area on Grand Avenue.

?We?re probably going to have to invest in signage to say ?construction entrance, employees only? to keep people out,? Hanson said.