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Local

Jail construction progressing

Discussion ongoing for future of current facility

DIXON – Work continues ahead of schedule on the new Lee County law enforcement center, and officials are looking at different options for the future of the current facility.

Construction likely will wrap up with the new jail at 240 E. Progress Drive at the end of the month, and operational tests will start in August, Sheriff John Simonton said.

The move-in process is set to start around mid-September, training will take place in October, and inmates could be transferred over at the end of October.

“We’re still moving ahead really well,” Simonton said. “We’re going to keep moving along as long as we have this type of weather.”

The 41,000-square-foot project includes a 94-bed jail, sheriff’s department, a sally port, space for storage, and a detention pond. Costs are coming in below the $18.5 million cap, and it’s being funded by the half percent sales tax increase voters approved in 2017.

Talks are ongoing about what to do with the current facility at 122 W. Third St., which has failed to meet jail standards for years, and how to minimize inmates’ interaction with the public when transported to court.

County Board members spoke last month about possibly outfitting a nonpublic area on the fourth floor of the Lee County Courts Building to hold inmates, and creating a route cutting down public interaction, but board member Dave Bowers said the judges wanted to keep that as a conference space.

They’re looking at other areas that might work, but it would likely mean reconfiguring an elevator for access, which could be costly.

Simonton said they could also use a portion of the old jail, but that could conflict with other possible plans, such as repurposing the space to house the county’s Emergency Management Agency.

Court appearances are via video arraignment more than 80 percent of the time, and that will soon be expanded to all four courtrooms, but they still need to figure out an option that works, is low-cost, and limits public interaction, he said.

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