By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
FCSO facility joins jail on Nov. 4 bond vote
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News

Now it's up to you.

The fate of a new Forsyth County jail and sheriff's headquarters, with a combined $91 million price tag, lies in the hands of the voters.

County commissioners decided Tuesday to place a dual-purpose general obligation bond on the Nov. 4 ballot. If approved by voters, the bond could fund construction of a new 480-bed detention center and a 51,000 square-foot sheriff's facililty.

County staff is redrafting the language of the 30-year bond to include the addition of the sheriff's office. The commission approved a motion to combine the items with a 3-2 vote Tuesday. Commissioners David Richard and Charles Laughinghouse opposed the measure.

Richard said posing the question of funding to voters for both items could cripple the referendum's initial purpose: a new jail.

"If somebody doesn't want that sheriff's headquarters," Richard said, "that jail's going down."

But Commissioner Linda Ledbetter said it sounded like a good deal.

"It's less than $100 million," she said. "We've got schools that cost more than that."

County Manager Rhonda O'Connor and jail architects Pieper O'Brien Herr will hold a series of town hall meetings in August to provide information and present proposed designs for the detention center.

The commission has already paid the architects $937,509 for two of three preliminary design phases to digitally flesh out the jail's inner workings for county staff and voters.

O'Connor was instrumental in nudging commissioners to proceed with the first two design phases, citing the overall savings of a jump-start on the project.

Because of crowding at the existing jail, the county is forced to house prisoners in nearby Cherokee and Dawson counties, as well as Floyd County in northwest Georgia and Irwin County in south Georgia.

It costs the county $45 per day to house one inmate elsewhere, not factoring in transportation costs.

The money used so far for the designing process has come from a fund specifically set up for the construction of a new jail.

Commissioners capped spending at a July 17 meeting because the bond forfeiture funds being used for design phases have run out.

They were one step short of entering the final design phase, but three out of five commissioners said they weren't willing to pull from the capital fund and continue spending on plans.

Voting against the measure were Commissioners Jim Harrell, Laughinghouse and Richard.

According to appraisers hired by the county and the architects, the jail is estimated to cost about $82 million, which includes the cost to buy the land.

Since the property was bought more than a year ago, it cannot be refunded by the general obligation bond, O'Connor said.

The county bought 33 acres off Veterans Memorial Boulevard last summer with plans of placing both the sheriff's headquarters and jail next to each other, according to Sheriff Ted Paxton.

Paxton has voiced support of the prospect of merging the jail and sheriff's headquarters into one ballot question.

Previous attempts to fund a new jail through a bond referendum have failed, most recently in March 2004.