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Officials approve $12M for 250-bed jail

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By Brent Schanding

Oldham County officials will spend up to $12 million to construct a new 250-bed detention center on 20 acres adjacent to the Kentucky State Reformatory, just west of La Grange on Ky. 146. 

The deal is pending federal approval, according to magistrates, but could be finalized by April 2013 after county officials voted Tuesday to approve the measure. 

“We’ve been working on this for two years as of next month. We’ve been able to do our homework well enough and sharpen our pencil good enough to get it down to this number,”  said Magistrate Bob Dye, chair of the county’s jail committee. “Now, we feel confident $12 million can build a 250-bed facility.” 

Oldham County’s existing jail is overcrowded and in desperate need of repair. Jailer Mike Simpson told The Oldham Era earlier this summer the facility is licensed to house 115, but averages more than 130 inmates daily.

Buckets catch rain leaking inside from the roof. Paint peels from the walls and cinder blocks are so saturated they ooze water. 

As officials evaluated the situation during the past two years, roof repairs were postponed — leading to leaks, mold and mildew.

The jail not only poses a safety threat to inmates, but also to county employees. The elevator frequently breaks down, leaving deputies trapped inside with multiple inmates.

“I was an opponent of this idea two years ago when I knew less about how the jail functioned…But we’re never going to have a chance like this again,” said Judge-Executive David Voegele, who eventually joined magistrates 7-0 to pass the resolution.

Magistrate Bob Leslie abstained from voting. Magistrate Michael Logsdon didn’t attend the meeting. 

Voegele said renovating the existing jail would’ve cost hundreds of thousands more than new construction. It would’ve also limit expansion opportunities, he said.  

“Continuing to fix up [an investment] that’s not doing well is not something any of us would be willing to do in our personal lives,” Voegele said. 

Magistrate JD Sparks said the existing jail will likely be converted to office space for the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts. 

While construction is pending state and federal approval, Dye said the earliest completion date would be December 2014.