Logan and Franklin counties are in the process of forming a committee to look into building a 150- to 200-bed jail that will serve both counties, according to Logan County Quorum Court member Mike Schluterman.
Schluterman said the committee will likely be composed of both County Judges, both County Sheriffs and members from both Quorum Courts.
Schluterman was one of three members of the Logan County Quorum Court that attended a meeting of the Franklin County Quorum Court last week in Ozark and discussed the idea with them. The other Logan County Quorum Court members attending were Eddie Finney and Lendel Parsons. Logan County Sheriff Steve Smith was also at the meeting.
"They asked us some questions and were in favor of moving forward," Schluterman said. "As soon as a committee is formed, we’ll have another meeting."
In October, Logan County was warned by the state’s Criminal Detention Facilities Review Committee that if it doesn’t address staffing, chronic overcrowding and other problems at its 34-bed jail within one year, the jail could be placed on probation or closed. Franklin County Sheriff Anthony Boren said at last Thursday’s meeting his 26-bed facility was currently housing 39 inmates, adding "We’re going to have to do something. We need a new jail, for sure."
Schluterman told the Franklin County Quorum Court that building a facility housing between 150 and 200 inmates could cost around $12 million. The facility would be run by an administrative board which would hire an administrator to run the facility.
"We don’t want to go anywhere below 75 beds, because we don’t want to be here again," Schluterman said.
Construction and maintenance of the facility would be funded by a sales tax that both counties would have to approve. The amount has yet to be decided.
"There are a lot of details to work out, but we owe ourselves a try," Schluterman said.
It has been suggested the facility be built near Caulksville or Ratcliff because those communities are centrally located between the two counties.
The idea of having an administrative board run the facility was an idea law enforcement officials liked.
"Having that administrative board, I think it would free up the responsibilities for the two law enforcement agencies to focus on their respective counties and not have to worry about day-to-day operations at the jail," said Logan County Chief Deputy and Jail Administrator David Spicer.
When the idea was initially discussed by Logan County Quorum Court members in January it wasn’t well received. However, that’s changed.
"At the February meeting, our JPs were receptive, which was different from the January meeting," Schluterman said. "At first, I really didn’t like the idea. But the longer we thought about it, the more we liked to idea."
(The Times Record of Fort Smith provided informaton included in this article.)