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Franklin County Again Delays Decision on Jail Extension Funding

Franklin County Commissioners have put off a decision on how to fund a proposed jail expansion until after a detailed budget review.

The County is considering adding a four-pod, 96 bed extension to the current county detention center to house non-violent offenders and women at a proposed cost of $2.5 million dollars.

So far, three funding plans have been put on the table.

The first includes a borrowing the money via a bond issue and paying it back over 15 years using revenue from the next special purpose local option sales tax.

Another plan calls for the county to use most of its $1.3 million dollar reserve fund to start the project and finish it phases as more revenue comes in.

A third plan, put forth by county manager John Phillips at last week’s work session, would involve using the $800,000 accrued from the last SPLOST and already designated for a new jail, to start the project and then use revenue from the next SPLOST to finish it.

Monday night, Commissioner Bob Franklin moved to pass Phillips’ plan, but during discussions, Commissioner Clint Harper said after praying about it, he believed the third plan would not be the way to go.

“After considering this proposal I found what I was looking for in Luke 14:28 and 29 where it says, ‘For which of you intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it. Lest, if he is not able to finish it, all who see it mock him.’ Have we counted the cost?” Harper asked.

Along those same lines, commissioner Jeff Jacques, who originally proposed using the county’s reserve fund, said he did not want to move forward with any plan until he had all the numbers in front of him.

“I think before we get to that point, I think we need to evaluate,” he said. “We can bounce back and forth about what we have in that jail fund. Nobody has told me what we actually have in that fund. Before I’m willing to go forward, I need to know how much we have in that fund.”

Jacques said he wants to know what future jail expenditures and revenues will be as well as what the next fiscal budget will look like before making a decision on funding.

“We’ve got our budget hearing coming up for next year,” he said. “We need to sit down and look at where we are this year with the budget. We need to look at where we are next year with the proposed budget. So, I would like to have a full understanding of where we are now and I would like a full understanding of where we are with next year’s budget.”

The board then voted 3-2 against the Phillips’ plan. Franklin and Commission Chair Thomas Bridges voted for the Phillips’ plan, Commissioners Harper, Jacques, and Strickland voted against.

Noting budget hearings were coming up over the next few weeks, the board decided, without taking another vote, to table a decision on jail funding until after the budget process was completed.

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