Construction at the new Greene County Jail will be done on time, and a dedication ceremony will be held in mid-May to celebrate it.
Greene County Director of Resource Management Kevin Barnes briefed the Greene County Commission on the jail project on the morning of April 28.
“The jail is substantially complete. We will issue the certificate of occupancy (April 29),” Barnes said. “We’re there. We made it, it feels a little surreal.”
Barnes said the sheriff’s office would be able to start moving employees into the offices in the jail starting the week of May 1-7. The Greene County Commission scheduled a cornerstone dedication ceremony for the sheriff’s office and the jail on Friday, May 13, at 9 a.m., with some public tours to follow at 10 a.m.
On May 2, the Springfield City Council is scheduled to hear the first reading of a bill to annex the jail property on Haseltine Road at West State Highway EE, or Division Street into the city of Springfield.
“The intent of the annexation request is to extend Springfield Fire Department coverage and automatic aid agreements to the site,” R. Daniel Neal, a senior city planner, wrote in a memo to the City Council.
Dust up with Brookline Fire Protection District
The annexation for fire protection caused some tensions between Greene County and the Brookline Fire Protection District. In a television package that aired April 27, on KY3, a member of the Brookline Fire Protection District Board of Directors said the fire district was not notified of any of Greene County’s pending talks of annexation into the city of Springfield, or discussion of the Springfield Fire Department’s capability of handling any fire or emergency that could potentially occur in the jail.
On April 28, Barnes took responsibility for the ruffling with the Greene County Commission. He said he has reached out to apologize and smooth over the relationship between Greene County and the Brookline firefighters.
“That’s my fault. I had not reached out to them since their board had turned over,” Barnes said.
About four years ago, the Brookline Fire Protection District was under different leadership as the Greene County Sheriff’s Office considered the construction site for the new jail, which is presently in the Brookline Fire Protection District, but has the pending annexation into Springfield.
“All of those discussions happened while Brookline was really distracted with other things,” Barnes said.
The Brookline Fire Protection District leadership and staff were working toward moving from all-volunteer fire and EMS service to staffing some firefighters on a full-time, round-the-clock schedule.
According to data that the Brookline Fire Protection District shared on its Facebook page in August 2021, the fire district has an estimated population of 10,527 people. It experienced a 58-percent increase in call volume during a record-setting 2021, responding to 1,323 calls for service. According to information that Chief Jamie Kilburn shared, 494 of those calls were fire calls, and Brookline firefighters responded to assist neighboring fire districts 98 times.
A vote in August 2021 allowed the Brookline Fire Protection District to staff firefighters on a 24-hour per day basis for the first time. On Sept. 7, 2021, the district sought applications for paid firefighters and captains, moving from volunteer responding to paid professional responding.
As of March 2022, the Brookline Fire Protection District was still seeking applicants to become firefighters.
Spring rains delay outdoor work
Construction workers and landscapers will still be on the jail property for some last-minute work as heavy spring rains have delayed progress on the exterior and grounds of the jail.
“They’ve got a lot of cleanup work. They are a little behind on the landscaping and some of the outside work, just because of the weather, but really, the building is ready to be occupied and we’re excited about that,” Barnes said.
DeWitt and Associates and J.E. Dunn Construction are the managers at risk for the jail project, They have a set budget and timeline to follow in order to avoid eating the bill for any overages, with some legally-protected exceptions.
In November 2017, voters in Greene County approved a ½-cent sales tax increase that was projected to generate more than $25 million per year. The list of projects that the Greene County Commission of 2017 pledged to complete with the sales tax revenue included jail expansion, hiring of new jail staff members, operating expenses for the jail, additional operating expenses in the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, emergency radio system improvements, courthouse renovations, mental health programs and more.
More space for inmates and deputies
Sheriff Jim Arnott, citing security concerns, has not disclosed an exact date or time that inmates would be moved from the existing Greene County Jail on North Boonville Avenue to the new jail.
The current jail and its annex have 991 beds, and 601 of those beds are in the main jail on Boonville Avenue. The new jail will have 1,242 inmate beds on the day it opens.
The new sheriff’s office is also part of the new facility on Highway EE, and it will take up 62,000 square feet of space. The sheriff’s office will use a separate building on the site for training, evidence storage and patrol vehicle outfitting and maintenance.
The new jail is divided into 20 different housing pods, with inmate capacities ranging from 24-56 inmates in a pod. The new jail also will have 16 rooms for court appearances by video teleconferencing, which means inmates will generally not leave the jail in order to make court appearances in downtown Springfield.
Most of the inmates in the Greene County Jail are being held for pre-trial court proceedings, and have not been convicted and sentenced.