The largest capital improvement project in Chatham County history is now underway. On March 8, 2011, Sheriff Al St Lawrence and Chatham County Commissioners broke ground on the Chatham County Detention Center Expansion Project.
This project is going to cost close to $100 million dollars. It is being paid for by a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax approved by voters in 2006. In December 2010, County Commissioners awarded a $71 million dollar construction contract to Hunt-Mills, A Joint Venture. Sixty-six percent of the site preparation and construction work is going to local subcontractors. Construction will take approximately 2 1/2 years.
Matthew Barnes, a Vice President and Officer for Hunt Construction Group said, "Hunt-Mills, with our associate partners Brownstone Construction Group and Sierra Design Build Construction Management Group are proud to be a part of this community project. We understand the significant responsibility bestowed upon us and will work diligently toward maximizing the participation of local subcontractors and suppliers while expediting the work to achieve a quality project in a safe and efficient manner."
"Everyone here at W.G. Mills is very excited to be partnered with Hunt Construction Group and to be a part of this significant project," said W.G. Mills Senior Project Executive Joe Frisco. "The renovations and expansion to the Chatham County Detention Center is a critically important project to Chatham County and its tax payers. We know this project has been a long time in coming and would not have been possible without the tremendous efforts on the part of the County and its staff. This will be a very challenging project and we look forward to working with our partners and the entire Chatham County team."
The current jail was built in 1992 with 1,224 inmate beds. Four and a half years later it reached its capacity. Today the inmate population count is close to 1,800. In late 2010 it reached a record 1,973 inmates. A vast majority of the people behind the bars and razor wire are felons.
The expansion project will add 400,000 square feet and bring the total number of inmate beds to 2,300, nearly double the current capacity. Major renovations will be done to the administration building, medical, kitchen, laundry and warehouse facilities. New security and fire alarm systems will be installed. A work-release center will also be built and the new facility will accommodate the need for any possible future expansions.
Sheriff St Lawrence said, "I would like to thank the taxpayers and voters for understanding the need for this facility—a facility that will help keep dangerous criminals locked up and out of our neighborhoods."
The Sheriff also thanks his deputies. "They are the ones who have felt the brunt of this overcrowding problem. They have put up with an increase in inmate fights and attacks and still they put their uniform on each day and come to work. This groundbreaking signifies a light at the end of the tunnel," he said.