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Bi-county jail being discussed

Officials from Logan and Franklin Counties have begun talks about building a 150-bed to 200-bed jail near the county line that would serve both counties.

Officials also said last week, the project would require a new sales tax in both counties, although the amount of the new tax remains undetermined.

Logan County Judge Gus Young, Quorum Court member Mike Schluterman and Sheriff Steve Smith traveled to Ozark on Jan. 21 and met with Franklin County Sheriff Anthony Boen, his chief deputy and Joe Powell, a former County Judge who is now an administrative aide to County Judge Janet Powell, his wife.

“They realize they are going to have to do something to their jail eventually,” Young said. “So, they’d be willing to look at a bi-county jail.”

Logan County is also going to have to do something about its jail which is chronically overcrowded. Overcrowding was one of the issues brought up by the Criminal Detention Facilities Review Committee after a September inspection. In October, Young was informed in a letter that the county needed to address “continuing problems” at the facility or the review committee may put the facility on probation or petition the Attorney General to close it.

Young also said a bi-county jail could be run by an administrative board composed of residents of both counties with a portion of a sales tax increase dedicated to construction and a portion dedicated to operations and maintenance. With operations and maintenance funded by a sales tax, the money now spent to operate the county jail could be turned back to the county’s general budget, Young said. This year, Logan County has budgeted $531,400 to run the Logan County Detention Center in Paris.

“Building a large facility will also be cheaper than building two county jails,” Young said. “That would save the taxpayers of both counties some money.”

Young also said there are at least two bi-county jails are in existence in Arkansas.

Young admitted that he didn’t think the idea would work when it was discussed at the January meeting of the Logan County Quorum Court.

“Now, I think it’s a possibility. We’d have to work out some issues, but it’s a possibility if everyone gets on the same page, we get the issues worked out and voters approve a sales tax.”

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