By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – An architect who specializes in building jails informed Lee County supervisors Monday that a new county jail with 600 beds will likely cost taxpayers an estimated $19 million.
Architect Mike LeBlanc of MWL Architects shared ideas related to building a new jail with supervisors and Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson. He said even without knowing where the facility will be built, county leaders should anticipate costs near his estimate.
“I think that’s pretty close,” he said after the presentation.
LeBlanc said his estimate included site utilities and development, buildings, furniture, architecture, engineering and a construction manager.
LeBlanc’s company, based in Lafayette, La., built the Alcorn County Justice Center and the Chickasaw County Regional Detention Center.
After listening to the presentation, Johnson said he thought it seemed close to what the county needs. The current 202-bed jail facility was built in 1995 and was too small when it opened, he said.
Johnson said county leaders should learn a lesson from short-sightedness involved in building the current jail. The facility received criticism recently in a Lee County grand jury report, which called for upgrades.
“It started as a 350-bed facility,” he said. “They kept cutting it and cutting and cutting it until we had a 200 bed facility.”
While no timeline has been set by county leaders, Johnson said he hopes a “written plan” is complete within a year.
Board of Supervisors president Bobby Smith said costs cited by LeBlanc seemed high and thought savings could come from county employees doing some of the work.
“I think we can do it for less than that,” Smith said.