Future Lawrence County Law Enforcement Center

Structure will combine county law enforcement services, jail under one roof;
site will allow room for expansion in the decades to come

Law Enforcement Center architectural drawing 5-18-22.png

Background:

 

On Nov. 2, 2021, Lawrence County voters approved a 3/8-cent sales tax to construct and operate a new sheriff's office & detention center. It is tentatively named the "Lawrence County Law Enforcement Center." Once construction bonds are paid off, 1/8-cent of the tax will drop off. The rest will continue for maintenance and operations.

This is the next step in long-term efforts to attack

the skyrocketing costs of crime in Lawrence County.

Step 1 – Achieved!

 

STOPPING THE SPIRAL.

When the cost of crime outpaced funding and decimated county finances, Lawrence countians came through with the half-cent Law Enforcement Sales Tax in 2017. This enabled the county to properly fund sheriff’s office operations; invest in additional law enforcement personnel; retire worn out patrol vehicles and institute a regular rotation of new vehicles into the fleet; replenish reserves that had been emptied to cover skyrocketing public safety costs; and begin saving for a larger jail to address the costly fees for boarding prisoners in other counties.

At the same time, the county increased use of electronic monitoring to stem the growing  jail numbers and added staff in the prosecutor’s office to help move cases through the system.

Step 2 – Achieved!

RETURNING THE COUNTY TO FINANCIAL STABILITY
AND SAVING FOR NEW CONSTRUCTION.

Once a modest three-month operating reserve was achieved, the county began saving in earnest for a larger jail. Those savings have enabled the county to "pay as you go" on site work, architectural design and other preliminary costs of the construction to date.

Step 3 – Achieved!

SECURING A SITE FOR A LARGER JAIL/SHERIFF’S OFFICE.

Thanks to the City of Mt. Vernon, the county was able to purchase an 8.52-acre tract of land southwest of the Highway 39/I-44 interchange. Cost:  $1. The county must begin construction within 5 years or the land reverts back to the city. Value of the land is over $120,000.

This site achieves another goal: It allows ample room for expansion.

Step 4 – Nearly complete

FINANCING CONSTRUCTION AND OPERATION.

While the county had hoped to save for a few more years before tackling the construction phase, the economic climate, increasing construction costs and out-of-county inmate housing costs prompted it to ask Lawrence County voters if they would like to proceed sooner. They did, approving a 3/8-cent sales tax Nov. 2, 2021. Collection on that tax began April 1, 2022, and the first revenue was received in May.

That sales tax is providing the debt service payment on the 20-year lease-purchase agreement currently being finalized. Once the debt is repaid, 1/8-cent of the sales tax will be dropped. The remainder will be used for operating and maintenance.

 

Where we're at today:

 

(Aug. 12, 2022) With the architectural plans done and construction bidding complete, the county has moved on to the final nuances of financing on the Law Enforcement Center project. That financing will be repaid with proceeds from a 3/8-cent sales tax approved by voters last November. Collection of that tax began in April 2022. First proceeds arrived in May.

Construction bids were opened June 21. There were 75 bids for  various aspects of the project. The construction manager at risk, Nabholz Construction, reviewed bids with the county commission July 7 and is now working with the successful bidders.

The county closes Aug. 17, 2022, on the 20-year financing package. It has been working with financial adviser Michael Short of Stifel Nicolaus & Company, Kansas City, Mo.

 

The County Commission closed on the 8.53-acre site Nov. 24, 2021. Elevatus Architecture developed the plans for the 34,258-square-foot facility working with Sheriff Brad DeLay and staff and the Lawrence County Commission.

 

Nabholz Construction is construction manager at risk. County officials interviewed three companies for the role and selected Nabholz on Dec. 9, 2021.

 

Meanwhile, collection of the 3/8-cent sales tax that will fund the construction began April 2022 and the first revenue arrived in May.