Work on the first phase of the approximately $10 million expansion to the Anderson County Jail appears to be on schedule, according to Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor.

Last May, Anderson County voters overwhemingly approved a $9.95 million expansion to the existing Anderson County Jail. The bond election essentially calls for the construction of a new 200-bed jail around the existing facility on East Lacy Street, bringing the total capacity to slightly more than 300.

Work is currently well underway on the section of the jail that will ultimately serve as the facility's approximately 4,750 square foot kitchen area. Initially, however, that area will be used to temporarily house up to 50 inmates.

Armand Fisher and Jeff Pittman, both with SEDALCO Construction Services, told Anderson County commissioners earlier this year that the target date for completing the first phase is June 7.

"They began raising the walls yesterday (Monday) afternoon," the sheriff said Tuesday. "We've got a huge crane out there. That just puts us a little closer to our goal."

When the first phase is completed, officials are hopeful all Anderson County inmates can be housed locally. For almost two years, the county has been forced to house some of its inmates in other jurisdictions in order to comply with state standards.

"When they do complete that back section in June, we'll be able to bring them (all inmates) home at a huge savings to the taxpayers," Taylor said. "We're excited about that."

On Tuesday, Taylor said Anderson County had a total of 26 inmates housed in jails in other counties at a rate of $42 per inmate per day. In recent weeks, the sheriff said the county has typically had between 20 and 30 inmates outside the county on any given day.

"With summer coming along, it's going to increase a little bit with people getting out and being active more hours of the day," Taylor said.

The entire jail expansion will encompass approximately 45,700 square feet and is scheduled to finished by June 2007. When completed, the jail will have a new sallyport, lobby and visitation area.

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Paul Stone may be contacted via e-mail at pstone@palestineherald.com

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