POLK COUNTY, N.C. (WSPA) – Polk County is spending millions to build a law enforcement center with a new jail. The current jail was built in the 70’s, and county leaders say a new facility is long overdue.
“We don’t house female inmates at all,” said Captain Jerry Williams, who’s over the 25-bed detention center. “We don’t have the capability of doing so – of separating them from the male inmates. The jail is so small; it’s not set up where we can to meet the general statutes of North Carolina.”
He said they have to transport women and juveniles to nearby counties, along with any men they don’t have room for.
“We paid $178,000 last year in out-of-housing costs,” he said.
He says the other cost is putting the officers’ safety at risk, depending on what the female inmate has been charged with or accused of.
Safety concerns continue inside the jail as it lacks a fire suppression system, or sprinklers.
“We have documents from 2005 that identify the jail as a significant need for the community,” said Polk County Manager, Marche Pittman.
He said years later, that need is being addressed with a jail on Highway 108.
Construction is now underway for project, which includes a new sheriff’s office and 60 bed detention center for a total cost of $13.5 million, with the facility costing about $9.6 million. County leaders say the actual cost could end up below the estimated amounts.
A loan to fund it is being covered by a tax increase.
“Last year we raised two pennies. This year we’re not sure because we don’t know what our budget is going to look like,” said Pittman.
Looking at public safety, he says the facility is worth it.
“You’re not just doing this for inmates, you’re doing this for the people who protect you day in and day out,” said Pittman.
County leaders are working to complete the facility by the end of this year, or early 2018. County leaders are also looking to use that same property to build another facility – like a courthouse or admin building – sometime in the future. No concrete plans have been set.