On March 5, community members had the opportunity to tour new additions that were recently completed at the Barry County Jail in Cassville. Tours were conducted by Barry County Commissioners and sheriff"s department staff.
"Adding onto a jail is something that you would hope would not have to happen, but the reality is that we had more people in jail than the current facility is designed to handle so adding on was required," said Frank Washburn, northern county commissioner.
"I am disappointed that it has taken as long to complete the project as it has, but I look forward to having the addition available to house the overflow from the current facility," Washburn added.
The new Barry County Jail addition was constructed using two 24-bed pods. Each pod offers eight three-bed cells, which will give the jail 48 more beds and increase the facility's prisoner capacity from 32 to 80.
"This is going to mean a lot for Barry County," said Mick Epperly, Barry County sheriff. "In a lot of cases, we have had warrants out, and we haven't been able to bring those individuals in because we didn't have a place to put them. We have had a backlog for some time.
"This will also address safety issues in the jail," said Epperly. "Being overcrowded created a monster. We would have fights in the jail and other problems. As our county continues to grow, this will help us out a lot."
In addition to new cells that are equipped with a metal toilet, sink and table, each jail addition offers a day room where prisoners will be able to spend nearly 12 hours each day.
"Each pod has phones that the prisoners can use," said Epperly. "We will have control over the phones though. In an emergency, like during a drug search, we will be able to shut the phones off."
The new additions will address the safety of both the prisoners and the law enforcement personnel working in the jail. In the past, overcrowding has created dangerous situations for deputies working in the facility.
"The completion of the new addition will mean a lot for our liability," said Barry County Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren. "Over the last year, we have had approximately 48 prisoners at all times. This will mean a lot for the safety of our people working in the jail."
Construction on the new addition began in April of 2008. Although the project was originally scheduled to be completed by October of last year, it was delayed by weather conditions and supplies not arriving on time.
"We certainly hope that it takes a long time to fill up the addition," said Washburn. "Perhaps, in the future, there will be different ways of keeping people from harming society without the necessity of putting them in jail, but for now that seems to be what is required."
The jail addition project cost the county around $1 million. Last year, the commission approved a $481,000 bid from Wehr Construction, of Springfield, which served as general contractor for the project. A $472,815 bid was also awarded to Tindall Corp., of Charlotte, N.C. for the two pre-fabricated jail pods.
The Barry County Commission was able to save $800,000 in capital project funds to support the jail addition. An additional $200,000 was borrowed from Security Bank of Southwest Missouri to complete the project.