Groundbreaking Held for New Jail


By Elizabeth Jordan
Staff Reporter

The groundbreaking for the new county jail was held on Sept. 16 on Kaolin Rd. in Sandersville.

“It’s always good when you can see dirt moving around on the ground concerning a project that’s been underway in people’s minds and thoughts and in the planning process for quite some time,” said Chamber of Commerce President/Executive Director of the Washington County Industrial Development Authority Charles Lee.

Voters approved the continuation of the one percent special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) in 2013 with the jail as the level one project to receive monies from the penny sales tax.

When discussing the new jail, Washington County Sheriff Thomas H. Smith began by thanking God for allowing everyone coming together.

“If it wasn’t for Him, none of this would be possible today; we need to give Him the credit, and not us,” said Sheriff Smith.

Smith went on to thank the people of Washington County; he also commented that the penny sales tax is the fairest tax.

“People from out of town who come to Washington County to shop, they help towards this facility,” said Sheriff Smith.

Prior to the groundbreaking, Lee explained that the Washington County Development Authority owned the property where the new law enforcement center/jail will be located.

“We were able to give that land back to the County for the development of this project,” said Lee.

Chairman of the Washington County Commissioners Horace Daniel commented that the area is a “wonderful site” for the new jail, adding that at one point they were considering purchasing property for $500,000.

Daniel went on to say that he appreciates the people of Washington County working together.

“Nobody likes to pay taxes, but what would you have if you didn’t?” questioned Daniel. “If you didn’t have any taxes, you wouldn’t have any roads fit to ride on.”

In regards to the role of the Washington County Public Facilities Authority, Lee stated that the estimated $16 million project will be financed through bonds.

However, Sheriff Smith added that the project is expected to come in under budget. He noted that this is taxpayer money, and vowed to spend less than $16 million if at all possible.

Sheriff Smith explained that the new jail will be a “super pod” to hold approximately 229 inmates. The current jail can house 52 inmates.

“We’ve been under a lot of pressure with inmates overcrowding – having to sleep on mattresses on the floor, and luckily the Federal government has not gotten involved yet and ordered us to build a jail,” said Sheriff Smith, praising the County Commissioners for being proactive, rather than reactive.

Rusty McCall, architect for McCall & Associates further discussed the new facility, saying that the jail committee reviewed five different proposals for the project and ultimately selected Dublin Construction Company.

The Jail Assistance Division from the Georgia Sheriff’s Association provided the Washington County Sheriff’s Office with a needs assessment. With that assessment, it was determined how many beds were needed to serve the county well into the future.

“The jail that we’ve planned, although there were many things that were wanted, there were some things we had to take out or reserve for later to keep the project in budget,” said McCall.

President of Dublin Construction Company Tom Hall followed on McCall’s comments saying that Dublin Construction has built several jails in surrounding counties.

“We look forward to a successful project,” said Hall.

Sandersville Mayor Pro-Tem Jeffery Smith focused on the group effort and the collaboration of the municipalities and the county.

“Anytime a project of this magnitude does not get accomplished without a group effort,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Smith. “I tell people all the time that bricks and mortar are great, but your real asset in your community is your people – we have some of the best people in leadership positions in this county and in our City and I think that’s what sets us apart.”

Smith continued his discussion by saying that time marches on, and change will always occur.

“Jails are not pretty; they’re not flashy; they’re not sexy, but they’re a necessity,” said Smith. “One thing that will kill your community is when you don’t feel safe in your home.”
Smith went on to say that Washington County is moving in a forward direction that will prosper the county for the next century.