By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Hall commissioners to vote on selling old jail to CCA
Hall County plans to sell the old jail on Main Street to the Corrections Corp. of America, under a lease-for-sale agreement. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Hall County government is nearing an agreement for the sale of the old detention center on Main Street in midtown Gainesville.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners will vote on a lease-for-sale agreement to private detention company Corrections Corp. of America, which is currently occupying the building.

If approved, the old detention center would be sold to CCA through an installment plan that would bring $7.2 million to the county over the next six years.

The building has been a source of controversy between the county and the city of Gainesville, which sees it as a possible blight on plans to enhance the midtown area.

Learning Tuesday that it could indefinitely serve as a jail disappointed Councilwoman Ruth Bruner and other council members.

"We just think it's a terrible location for a prison," Bruner said.

"Especially since we want to improve midtown," added Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras. "I try to explain to them all the time that Gainesville sits right inside of Hall County; they don't seem to understand me. Anything that's good for the city is going to be good for the county."

In 2007, the city had announced plans to purchase the old jail for $4 million with an option for the county to lease the property to a company like CCA for seven years before giving the city control.

That deal fell through, with each side giving a different version on why.

In 2008, the county entered a lease agreement with CCA, followed by disputes between Gainesville and Hall over code inspections and permitting of the old jail.

City officials eventually backed off, and assumed the lease was temporary.

Mayor Danny Dunagan said he thought the lease to CCA was a compromise that helped the county earn more money from the Main Street property before selling it to the city at the end of the lease.

The 20-year lease with CCA was supposed to net the county $2 million a year.

At the least, Dunagan said he hoped the building would be remodeled as a new headquarters for the sheriff's office, instead of building a new facility for the county agency.

"They know that the citizens of downtown Gainesville do not want a prison in downtown Gainesville ..." said Bruner.

"They knew that our goal was to get rid of it and have a project in midtown that we could be proud of, not a prison."

On Tuesday, Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett said the city was informed of a plan to sell the jail to CCA. Despite the city's past interest in buying the building, he said the city would not have been able to match what CCA was offering.

"The price they were asking, the city just couldn't do," he said.

Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix said the deal would allow a "more stable source of income" for the upcoming years.

Under the proposed installment sale agreement with CCA, the county would get $1 million in the current budget year; $3.1 million in 2013; $2.5 million in 2014; and $200,000 in each of the next three years.

Staff writer Ashley Fielding contributed to this report.