The Norman Transcript

January 23, 2013

County awaits jail bond issue report

By Mick Hinton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Nearly a year after the Internal Revenue Service notified Cleveland County commissioners that the federal agency was going to review the $52 million bond issue to build a new jail, the county still has not received a final report.

County Commissioner Rod Cleveland commented Tuesday that officials would just like to receive a report, whether it is favorable or unfavorable, “and get it over with.”

The F. DeWayne Beggs Detention Center was opened in mid-January 2012, although prisoners were not taken to the facility until mid-February.

In a letter dated Feb. 16, the IRS informed commissioners that IRS’ Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division was going to conduct an “examination of $52,000,000 Sales Tax Revenue Bonds” approved by voters in late 2011 to pay for the new jail.

Questions were raised by citizens when the bid for construction of the jail came in at about $26 million. A taxpayers’ group wanted to know how the rest of the bond money was being spent.

Commissioners, who also serve as trustees of the Cleveland County Justice Authority, said the rest of the money was needed to pay for related costs, such as purchase of land for the jail along with several million dollars paid to bond counsel, a financial adviser and an architect.

County officials provided Transcript reporters with records of the Cleveland County Justice Authority’s expenses for the new jail.

The new detention center has a capacity of 540 inmates. However, the jail has enough money to staff and maintain only two thirds of that number.

Undersheriff Rhett Burnett told county commissioners Tuesday that the prisoner head count was 390. Currently, 74 inmates have been processed for transport to the state Department of Corrections. They are being housed in Cleveland County because DOC does not have room for these offenders.

Meeting as trustees, commissioners also named new county commissioner Darry Stacy, a former Norman police officer, as chair of the justice authority. Commissioner Rusty Sullivan noted that he has been chair since the trust was formed, and he thought it was appropriate to have Stacy take the position.

Also Tuesday, county commissioners talked about problems with abandoned trash in rural districts.

“Trash dumping is an ongoing epidemic,” said Sullivan, noting that people tossed old mattresses and furniture throughout rural Cleveland County.

Stacy said he was amazed how successful a recent cleanup day in Little Axe had been. “It was unbelievable about what they brought” to the trash collection site.

Commissioners also received bids from six companies to resurface the large parking lot south of the courthouse. Bids ranged from $587,250 to $710,000. In coming weeks, they will award a paving contract.

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.