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With jail expansion talks back on the table since February, Halifax County commissioners Monday accepted design plans for a 135-bed facility presented by Moseley Architects.

The board approved acceptance of the plans on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Marcelle Smith absent. Commissioner Carolyn Johnson cast the dissenting vote.

Johnson said afterward, “I’m for the jail. I want to look at it in more detail.”

Sheriff Wes Tripp said during a break in the meeting, “I look at it as a step forward. This has been long overdue. This will take it one step closer.”

The board did not vote to expend any funds on the jail project. That is something board Chairman Vernon Bryant said will have to be studied in detail. “We have to figure that out.” 

The plans Mace presented to the board call for a 135-bed jail. The plans include a two-tier section which would house 94 inmates and a dorm unit which would house 40 more. A one-bed isolation cell is also included in the plans.

Upgrades would include smoke control and sprinklers to meet jail standards, video visitation infrastructure, security system upgrades and the renovation of the outdoor recreation area to meet jail standards, Mace said.

Renovations and additions to the sheriff’s office are not included in the plans but the site would follow 2013 design plans which include an impound lot and security fencing in the back.

The estimated budget is $12,234,337.50, Mace told the board.

Renewed talks of the jail come as the sheriff’s office continues to operate under a state-imposed cap of 85 inmates — 77 men and eight women.

For the month of July the county $21,440 housing inmates in other facilities, Tripp told the board, the majority being housed in Northampton County. 

A 135-bed jail, the sheriff said, could open up revenue-generating opportunities for the county. 

July was considered a light month, Tripp said. “We never know how many inmates we may house from month to month.”

The sheriff has termed the situation at the jail serious if not critical.