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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Jail remodel raises the roof

  • The Hempstead County Detention Center is getting a $500,000 makeover that is designed to stop leakage problems which have existed for almost 20 years and will expand office space for the county sheriff's department.
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  • The Hempstead County Detention Center is getting a $500,000 makeover that is designed to stop leakage problems which have existed for almost 20 years and will expand office space for the county sheriff's department. Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton said the two-phase project has already begun with the construction of a new, metal, pitched roof for the 18-year old building to correct leakage which has been a problem since the building was opened. “JDL Construction Co., out of Texarkana, owned and operated by John Little, a Hempstead County native, got the bid for $140,000 to put a pitched metal roof on top of the detention center and offices,” Singleton said. “We've had problems ever since it opened with cracks, roof leaks, seams all throughout. We tried three times, we went back over it and had it recoated, and that was costing us about $40,000 a time.” Singleton presented a plan to the Hempstead County Quorum Court to have the roof replaced and replace the heating and air conditioning units to the building. “The leaking got so bad, it was in danger of damaging the 911 equipment,” he said. “That room houses thousands of dollars in equipment; not to mention that ceiling tiles were getting wet and falling into offices.” Greenleee Sheet Metal Co., of Hope, will do the installation of the HVAC equipment at a cost of about $48,000, he said. “All this is being done without cost to the taxpayers because, as part of the lawsuit that was filed several years ago by the county over the construction of the facility here, the county received a settlement,” Singleton said. “And, we're using $140,000 of that money to put the roof on. So, it's of no expense to the taxpayers.” The roofing work is nearing completion, he said. The second phase of the project will expand the office space in the county sheriff's side of the complex. “When this facility was built, there were only three offices allocated to the sheriff's office,” Singleton said. “I've worked in both sides of this building since it opened. We had to take the sheriff's offices and split it in two offices with 309 labor, and we converted the kitchen area to have a little office, and we put one of our investigators in a closet that we had. We had to live with what we had.” Three of four investigators share one office, and eight patrol deputies and a warrants officer share another office, he said. “We've got two deputies working in an office that's about six by six,” he said. A standard jail cell is larger, Singleton said. Singleton said he later learned of a funding source which will be used to pay for the office expansion. “We got to researching it and found that this booking fee that was passed by the legislature several years ago; a $20 booking fee that we charge everybody that is booked into the jail; it's $20 no matter what,” he said. “That fee can only be used for construction, or for certificate pay for the deputies and jailers.” Approximately 1,800-square feet of office and conference space will be added to the sheriff's department side of the facility, Singleton said. “There will also be storage space in the attic above the existing building and the new addition will allow for keeping of old records,” he said. “The sheriff's office currently keeps old records on the fifth floor of the courthouse, which is full, and recent laws passed by the state require sheriff's offices to keep some records 50 to 99 years.” The fifth floor of the courthouse building was originally the county jail and sheriff's offices. “There will be a conference/training room, an interview room with audio/video recording system to properly record statements and interviews, in the new addition,” Singleton said. “If we have a large meeting of law enforcement officers, or if a family comes in who has lost a loved one, we will have space to sit down and talk with them comfortably.” Some parking will also be added in front of the complex. The office expansion will extend from the front of the current building to the current curb, Singleton said. Bobo and Bain Construction Co., of Hope, is the contractor for the expansion project, at a cost of $269,647, the lowest of four bids by more than $100,000, according to Singleton. Construction on the expansion project is expected to begin next week, according to Singleton.
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