NORMAN — Commissioners propose temporary holding facility for youth offenders
One county commissioner said corrections professionals are displaying a renewed interest in using the old Cleveland County jail as a temporary holding facility for youth offenders.
“There might be some need in the state that Cleveland County might be able to fill on a temporary basis,” District 1 Commissioner Rod Cleveland said. “It might make sense that we could fill a void for them (the state) — not permanently in the jail, but temporarily.”
At the 9 a.m. Monday commissioners meeting, he said plans are “just all speculation,” but he’s got a rough idea.
“We’d provide a short-term solution for OJA (the Office of Juvenile Affairs),” Cleveland said. “The problem is we don’t have the money, and we’re not going to come up with another vote to build something new.”
Cleveland said the project would need to “make sense” for the community and the state’s juvenile justice agency. Ideally, this would mean the state would help fund the renovations while also allowing the county to retain operational control of the facility.
Sullivan still for storage: District 3 Commissioner Rusty Sullivan — whose April 30 motion to transform the old jail into a cold storage facility failed to achieve a majority vote — said after the meeting that he’d be willing to consider converting the old jail to a youthful offender facility.
Previously, however, he said he thought housing youthful offenders in the old jail would cost the county a vast amount of money.
“We’ve addressed this once,” Sullivan said. “It was going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it. If the state’s willing to put up the money, we can look into it. I’ll certainly listen to them and see what they want to say.”
He said he’s not fully aware of what would take place with the second set of plans for converting the old jail to a youthful offender holding facility, but he said the previous set — which would have the facility housing a limited number of youthful offenders — simply didn’t make sense.
Sullivan said he still envisions converting the jail to cold storage as ideal due to the minimal costs — just electricity for lights — that would be associated with the facility’s use.
He said he’s still “categorically against” spending the revenue generated by the quarter-cent tax on anything but the new F. DeWayne Beggs Detention Center.
Skinner supports demolition: District 2 Commissioner George Skinner said after the meeting that his primary goal is to see the old “eyesore” jail torn down, though he’s still open to what comes after demolition.
He said maintaining the old building, for a purpose such as housing 12 to 15 youthful offenders, would be expensive. The facility now has 182 beds in it, and the extra space would require heating and cooling.
“If they’ve (OJA officials have) got the money, they need to help us tear it down and build a building, we can put in 12 beds for them,” Skinner said. “I would be glad to talk with OJA and see what they’ve got in mind. We need to build a building, anyway.”
Joel Pruett 366-3540 email@example.com