By Trey Youngdahl
After setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, construction has begun on the long-awaited jailhouse expansion project.
The project was started during Sheriff Mike Godfrey’s term five years ago, when Polk County was given an ultimatum. Because of the building’s age, built in 1978, and the jail’s capacity, officials gave orders to either get the current jailhouse up to code or build a new one.
After a long, futile search for property to build a new jail for an estimated $12 million, the County opted to bring their current facility up to code and expand on the current jailhouse for an estimated $3 million.
The current jailhouse was brought up to code by building a fence around the perimeter, adding a recreation yard, and expanding the kitchen, among other things. This was considered “phase one” of the project, and cost about $500,000 to complete.
The County has moved on to “phase two” of the project and has hired jailhouse construction company SouthBuild to bring the project to fruition. The expansion is projected to be finished in mid-Sept. to early Oct. of this year.
Funding for the project was originally to be sourced from taxpayers, but it was strongly opposed and was voted against by citizens. Because of good budgeting decisions, and the American Recovery Plan (ARP) grant totaling $1.8 million dollars, the project has been able to be funded completely without an increase on taxes.
“When I was campaigning, I committed to getting this done without a tax,” Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer said, “The County has done a really good job with keeping our budgets really tight. We’ve had probably a 5 percent or 6 percent growth on our budgets for six years, which is unheard of.”
When finished, the expansion will total between 25,000 – 28,000 square feet. The improvements will add space for 32 inmates, allowing for a total of 60 inmates housed.