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Prison expansion ‘a step closer’

LPPJ awards bid for jail dorm construction
Thursday, November 14, 2019
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More than a year after first announcing an upcoming expansion building for the parish prison, the Lincoln Parish Police Jury was able to accept a bid on the project’s construction Tuesday.

The new 96-bed dorm building will house the Lincoln Parish Detention Center’s population of Louisiana Department of Corrections trustee inmates, freeing up more room for local pre-trial inmates in the main facility.

The police jury, which owns the jail building and property, applied for and won a $2.67 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2018 to pay for the project.

Originally projected to be up and running by this summer, several delays between the jury and the USDA have prevented the project from getting off the ground.

Parish Administrator Courtney Hall said it wasn’t until Thursday that the parish received the letter of approval from the USDA needed to accept a bid for construction.

“It’s been a long process to get to this point,” he said. “We actually took bids back on Aug. 22. From that point until Thursday — that’s how long it took for us to get approval from the USDA to award the bid.”

The police jury and detention center commission have lookedinto an expansion for several years because on any given day, the prison is responsible for more prisoners than its current facility can hold.

An inmate overflow is currently costing the detention center between $23,000 and $25,000 each month to house in other parishes’ facilities. That compares to the $11,000 monthly note the prison will pay for the life of the USDA loan once the expansion is open.

“So when you decrease that (outside housing) expense, the savings alone will pay the expenses for the added trustee dorm they’re building,” District 6 Juror Walter Pullen said.

Warden Jim Tuten, who has spoken to both the police jury and the jail commission about the detention center’s financial situation in recent months, was on hand Tuesday as the jury voted to award the bid.

“We’re a step closer,” Tuten said after the meeting. “We’ve still got to go through a couple more things, but it’s just a formality of paperwork. It’s just a matter of getting those things done.”

Hall said there is not yet a defined timeline for when the project might break ground, since the jury must still wait for construction documents to be approved by the USDA.

The winning bid came from West Monroe-based Mann’s Construction in the amount of $2,812,000. On top of the construction cost, estimates for total project cost are around $3.5 million.

The detention center commission voted last month to pay the remainder of the cost that the USDA loan won’t cover out of the prison’s existing fund balance so that the project may move forward with no further delay.

The jury also passed a resolution authorizing the issuance of sales tax bonds as surety for repayment of the federal loan.