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Top Story No. 8: New Hall County jail is completed and occupied

POSTED: January 10, 2008 5:03 a.m.

It took seven years to plan and $54 million to build and equip, but Hall County finally got its new jail in October of this year.

The jail, which can house some 1,000 inmates, was finished a month ahead of schedule and about $1 million under budget, Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic said at the time of its opening.

The project was funded through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

Before the Barber Road facility was completed, the old jail in midtown Gainesville, which had been built in the early 1980s, was crowded and inmates also had to be housed in other counties' facilities. The new, larger facility gives the county the option to make money by housing inmates from other counties.

It took some three days and a lot of security personnel to move all 513 inmates from the midtown facility into the new jail some two weeks after it opened.

"As we transport inmates, we don't want to have an uprising here or in the new jail," Hall County Sheriff's Maj. Jeff Strickland said during the move. "This lets the inmates know we're serious about this."
After inmates were moved into the new jail, the question of what to do with the old Hall County Detention Center property turned into months of discussion between city and county officials.

In December, Gainesville and Hall County officials made a deal that outlines the fate of that property, at least for the next seven years. Gainesville agreed to buy the property from Hall County for $4 million and then lease it back to the county for a period of seven years. Hall County in turn will sublease the property to a private jail management company based in Nashville, Tenn., which could generate $18 million in revenue for the county.

After months of wrangling over what to do with the property, it seemed like a win-win situation for both sides.

"To the city, the value in the jail is the property," City Manager Bryan Shuler said. "To the county, the value in the jail is the income potential from the jail being operated by a private entity."



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