Union County Fiscal Court approves jail closure

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UNION CO, Ky (WEHT) – Union County Fiscal Court approved the closure of the county jail during Tuesday morning’s fiscal court meeting. Inmates from the jail have been housed in Webster County Jail since late last year.

Sewer issues initially forced officials to move inmates to Webster County, and the jail has been operating as closed for the last six months.

This morning’s vote by the fiscal court closes the jail that’s been operating since 1974. But county officials say they are leaving the option open of building a new jail here in the future.

“It’s a decision that we needed to make, as kind of the guardians of the taxpayer’s money, it’s a prudent thing to have to do,” says Union Co. Judge Executive Adam O’Nan.

Reasons for the closure include the building’s structural problems, including needed repairs of the roof and sewer system, and high cost of running the jail, which Judge O’Nan says ranged from $900,000 to more than a million dollars a year. The jail could only hold 47 inmates.

“If we had 200 inmates to scatter that cost over, then it’s much more efficient and cheaper to run. We just don’t have the ability to do that. It’s really difficult to justify that expense,” says Judge O’Nan.

Officials say the county jail’s transfer center will keep running. Judge O’Nan estimates the county can save $300,000 TO $500,000 a year.

“We’ve talked about it for years and years and we knew this was coming,” says Union County Jailer Shawn Elder. He also says there have been talks of building a new jail in 10 or 20 years, but that would cost the county millions of dollars.

“We looked at every option before they decided to close it. A new facility, you’re looking at anywhere from 12-15 million dollars. We just don’t have the money here in Union County for that,” says Elder.

While the transfer center will remain open at the jail, the rest of it will close on April 1st.

(This story was originally published on March 23, 2021)

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