Barry County searching for location of new jail building
HASTINGS, Mich. —
Many questions surround plans to replace the Barry County Jail and Sheriff's Office with a new, bigger facility.
Still in the early stages, the Barry County Commission doesn't know where the money will come from or where the new jail will go.
Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf said, "My ideal timeline is ten years ago and every time we wait the price of the building goes up."
Sheriff Leaf gave Newschannel 3 a tour of the nearly 50-year-old facility Tuesday. The only things left unseen were on the other side of doors with broken locks that are so old locksmiths don't repair them anymore, Leaf said.
Stains on the floor of the garage expand in size with old, leaky pipes overhead.
"These are literally sewer pipes and every now and then they'll start dripping," Leaf said, "it's just gross."
A chain link fence surrounds a small area in the garages that's now used to process evidence.
"We are all out of room in our other evidence room so this was the next best thing we had," Leaf explained.
Outdated and out of space, the sheriff says a new facility is long overdue.
"More than likely to replace this facility we will have to go ask the taxpayers for a millage," said Barry County Commission Chair Ben Geiger.
A 2015 independent study suggests a new, bigger facility will fit on the nine acres of vacant land behind the current building.
"But we are looking at this property as an asset we could use to bring down the cost of a replacement facility," Geiger said.
A recent appraisal values the current jail and the county-owned lot behind the building at about $1.8 million. Money that the county could tap into if it decides to sell the property.
Currently, the jail sits off a state highway in a commercial area of Hastings. If sold, Geiger believes the property that's now home to the county jail could be an attractive location for a new residential or commercial development to generate more tax revenue.
"What we as Barry County commissioners are doing is looking at what are our assets are and what are our opportunities to replace this facility at the least cost to taxpayers," Geiger said.
The county commission is also looking at other properties currently owned by Barry County as possible sites for the new jail, including the land behind Barry County Christian School.
Geiger said, "I don't know if there are other opportunities out there to put a jail but that's a question we want to answer with the community."
The county commission is in the process of hiring a firm with experience in building jails to act as a guide in plans and aid in community involvement.
The county commission meets Wednesday, Aug. 22 at 9 a.m. to review the appraisal of the property where the jail currently sits as more options are to be explored.