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Halifax County commissioners Monday got their first look at funding options for a new detention center during a presentation made by the county’s financial advisors.

County Manager Dia Denton told the board the county will probably need to focus on a jail that is in the $50 million range.

David Cheatwood of the Charlotte-based First Tryon Advisors gave the board funding option overviews using costs from a $30 million to $50 million range and a detention center with a capacity for 270 inmates.

Cheatwood said in his presentation given the type of project being financed, a limited obligation bond would be the county’s best financing structure.

The alternatives are general obligation bonds which require voter approval or look to USDA for financing if the county’s demographics and project meet USDA criteria.

“We have a lot to think about,” County Attorney Glynn Rollins said. “There’s a construction and design track and there’s a financing track that has to run at the time. We do not want to get them out of sync.” 

There was no direction sought from commissioners during the meeting although the county manager said, “What I would like you to consider are the different options that Mr. Cheatwood laid out.”

The county has already visited two detention centers — Johnson and Granville counties. 

Before discussing a new detention center the county manager said the deliberations centered on renovations of the current facility. “I think we can all agree that that’s probably not the best option at this point and the best option is a new facility. That takes a little bit of a different approach. It might actually be a little easier to build a new facility.”

The county has always been concerned about staffing the detention center, she said. “With the designs that we’ve seen from both Granville and Johnson (counties) they are very efficient in maximizing staff.”

The county is very early in the process, she said. “This will really give us some guidelines about how to proceed. The figure you would like to budget for, you will see what the financial impacts are. As you go into (the) budget this is a (revaluation) year, you’ll see in the new (revaluation) what a penny brings in your tax rate and then what options you would like to pursue. There’s pros and cons to all three of those options. You finance it out for a longer time but you’re going to pay more but it’s more painful to pay those large figures early on.”

Denton said the first direction she would like from the board in upcoming discussions is the figure to work from. “We’ll go ahead and secure an architect but we can say this is how much money we have and this is what we have to stay in. Sometimes that can dictate what your project looks like.”

In discussing some of the capacity needs for a new detention center Denton said the capacity of the existing jail is 85 inmates, which includes space for eight females and 77 males. “In the past several years we’ve seen our female population increase significantly. It does cost more to house female inmates and then when we have to transfer them to other facilities we’re paying more,” Denton said. “You would have to have a larger space for females.”

Defendants who are incarcerated in the same case have to be taken into consideration. “You have to separate them for their own safety and the integrity of the case that’s going on,” she said.

The county would probably stay away from a dormitory-style facility, the county manager said, and look towards more of a single cell style. She said staff likes the spoke and wheel design, the county’s operations department likes that design as does the sheriff. “It really enhances the safety of the officers and the inmates and you don’t have to add on as many staff. We’ll still have to add some staff but it won’t be (like) 20 and 30.”

A block would most likely be needed to care for inmates with mental health issues, Denton said. “That’s really going to be a concern for us. Based on our numbers we see a lot of inmates that have mental health (issues) as opposed to drug problems … and you need to be able to care for them safely … They need to be separated as well for their safety and the officers’ safety and the other inmates’ safety.”