By David Howell
JACKSON – A House Bill introduced by Representative Tommy Reynolds authorizing Yalobusha supervisors to build a jail anywhere in the county has passed the House in a 114 – 4 vote.
House Bill 465 has now been sent to the Senate, where it was referred to the Local and Private Committee last Thursday.
Board Attorney John Crow advised supervisors last November that there could be a problem if the jail is not constructed within the city limits of either county seat in Yalobusha County.
Supervisors then passed a resolution asking Representative Tommy Reynolds to introduce local and private legislation giving the county authority to build the jail outside of Water Valley. The request came after supervisors identified property for a new jail, located just outside of the Water Valley municipal limits, on County Road 436. The jail site is located on property owned by the county. The acreage was donated by Carother’s Construction.
Construction for a new jail, which is planned to house more than 80 inmates, including both state and county prisoners, has been a familiar topic, surfacing at meetings for more than three years.
Last September, supervisors voted 4 – 1 to move forward with the construction of a new county jail which would replace the 1964 model 24-person jail. The new facility will cost an estimated $2.5 million. District 3 Supervisor M.H. “Butch” Surrette cast the sole dissenting vote.
Supervisors also authorized Sheriff “Lance” Humphreys to move his department from the old jail on Calhoun Street in Water Valley to the office building also donated by Carothers. The move allows Humphreys to have more office space for his department, but is complicated as Humphreys would have to juggle his manpower between the jail, which remains at the Calhoun Street location, and the new department on County Road 436.
The complication was expected to be temporary, as the new jail would be constructed at the new location, adjacent to the new sheriff’s department.
In recent months, the jail topic has only surfaced briefly, as more than one supervisor has cautioned that the county needs to move forward carefully, citing the effects of the global recession and the state budget – which will ultimately be felt at the county level.
“People are asking when are they going to start on the jail?” District 1 Supervisor Tommy Vaughn said in a Jan. 19 meeting, when the jail topic surfaced.
“What I tell them when they ask me is, we are going forward, but we are going forward cautiously. We are going to have to wait and see what comes out of this (state) legislative session and how hard we are going to get hit,” Vaughn continued.
District 5 Supervisor Frank “Bubba” Tillman also brought the issue up in January after supervisors voted to purchase the health department building, spending $275,000.
“At one time we thought we might be dealing with a jail,” Tillman told supervisors during the first meeting held in 2010.
“And we still may,” Vaughn said at the Jan. 4 meeting.
“And we still may,” Tillman agreed. “The way we were dealing with it at that time, we were going to spend a million dollars,” Tillman reminded supervisors, referring to the September decision by the board to dig into the county’s $2 million-plus reserve account for a down payment on the jail.
“I feel like that jail is going to be put on hold for a little while,” Tillman added.