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Local

LEE COUNTY Jail construction ahead of schedule

Two extra correctional officers will be hired

DIXON – Work on the new jail is about 2 months ahead of schedule, and two additional correctional officers will be hired to adequately staff the facility.

The county broke ground on its new $16.8 million law enforcement center in August, and construction is on track to wrap up in September.

Insulation work was being done this week, and the hope is to finish up the roof after Christmas so the building can be enclosed to avoid extra winterization costs.

The facility is being built on a county-owned 3-acre site at 240 E. Progress Drive, next to animal control, and the 41,000-square-foot project will be home to a 94-bed jail and sheriff’s department funded by the half-percent sales tax increase voters approved last year.

Earlier this month, the County Board signed off on hiring two more correctional officers so the jail can meet minimum standards, which includes having staff make checks every half hour.

Lee County Sheriff John Simonton said the total cost for two correctional officers’ salaries and benefits will be around $104,000, which will be covered by funds now being used to transport and house women inmates to jails in other counties and from anticipated additional revenue from court services fees that were upped this year.

The county was required to move women inmates elsewhere after an Illinois Department of Corrections inspection in March 2017 found the jail violated a requirement that men and women be kept out of earshot of one another, and the County Board moved over about $160,000 in surplus money to pay for the costs.

They had hoped to mitigate the need for extra staff with cameras and other technology, but that won’t be enough for the busy times of the day, Simonton said.

“Technology only goes so far.”

The new officers likely will be hired in August, and more project updates will be coming early next year.

The jail will have a mezzanine with an observation hallway with windows large enough to see both levels of cells, as well as a sally port, space for the sheriff’s department and storage, and a detention pond to alleviate flooding issues.

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