BY MELANIE BUCK –
Polk County Sheriff Mike Godfrey has announced that out of nine bidders, three have been chosen to make presentations to the Polk County Jail Committee and Quorum Court concerning the possible building of a new county jail.
Although the county is not to the stage of hiring a builder, HMN Architects, based out of Kansas; Southbuild, of Tennessee; and Wittenburg, Delony, & Davidson, of Little Rock, will all compete for the right to submit a final site study report to the Committee and Court. The site study will consist of the chosen company studying the land where the jail is to be built and to develop a set of plans to bring to the public.
In July, Sheriff Godfrey made a presentation to the Polk County Quorum Court and explained that the current jail is a “money pit” and that it no longer meets state requirements. Godfrey also stated that an inspection is due this fall and that a “shut-down is inevitable” due to the number of items that are not in compliance ranging from inmate over-population, no exercise yard, segregation of inmates, etc. If the Polk County jail were to shut down, it would cost the county approximately $45,000 per month to house inmates elsewhere and for transportation costs for court appearances.
Mena City Council has approved and donated around 6 acres in Industrial Park for the construction of a new jail. The property is located on a wooded lot between Brooks Ice Co. and Healthy Connections, Inc. Godfrey said that location was ideal and would remove inmates from a residential area. He said the donation by the City of Mena easily saved the County at least $500,000.
Godfrey proposed a new 100-bed pod system design that would also include the Sheriff’s Office as well as dispatch, a small courtroom suitable for hearings, infirmary, and a 309 Depository. The 309 Depository would be a possible reimbursable program from the State of trustees that are not from the area and he suspects would improve turnover.
Once the public is able to see the design plans, the square footage, and the cost of the build, a one-cent sales tax would then be proposed and be voted on in a special election after the first of next year. Godfrey stated, “We want the public to see exactly what it will cost, exactly how the money is spent, and if the tax is approved, how long it will take to pay if off.”