Habersham officials tour new Hart jail

As they ponder the building of a new county jail, Habersham County Commissioners Bruce Palmer and Jimmy Tench joined representatives from the sheriff’s office and public works department recently for a tour of the new Hart County Jail.

The 229-bed jail is being constructed for about $26.2 million. Hart County Commissioners also considered a 147-bed jail for $23.97 million, but for less than $2.5 million chose the additional 82-bed capacity. Even at 229 beds, the facility can be expanded off the back and roughly doubled in size if needed in the future.

The pricing for that project was locked in prior to supply chain issues and inflationary spikes in costs. Recent changes in the economy place estimates for a properly sized Habersham County Jail at $35 million to $55 million.

Included in the current design are kitchen and laundry facilities to accommodate 500 inmates in case facility expansion is needed.

Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland said Hart County Commissioners planned for the next 50 years when building the facility.

Like the current jail it will replace, the new facility on Bowman Highway will house only the jail and its operations. The sheriff’s office will remain in its administrative facility off Reed Creek Highway.

The Georgia Sheriff’s Association has recommended that Habersham County building a 350- to 400-bed detention facility.

“Every day that we wait to do something is costing the taxpayers more money, because it’s not if we need a new jail – we all know we do – it’s when we have to build one,” said Sheriff Joey Terrell. “As a taxpayer, I understand that no one wants to pay more, but as a sheriff elected by the people it would be irresponsible of me not to point out the desperate need for a new jail – now rather than later. And I’ve been saying this for years. I know the commissioners have a hard job trying to find funding for everything, but the jail is one can we can’t keep kicking down the road hoping the need for one will go away. It won’t!”

Habersham County Commission Chairman Ty Akins toured the new Hart County Jail in February and said he is hopeful Habersham County can find a way to construct a similar facility.

“We certainly understand the need for a new jail in Habersham County and are working diligently to find a way to fund it,” Akins said. “As commissioners, we understand the pressures the current economy is placing on the families in our community and realize every project and its impact must be weighed carefully.”

(Photo courtesy Habersham County PIO Rob Moore)