Article published December 29, 1990
State officials urge county to advance with jail plans
State prison officials who recently inspected the Spartanburg County jail are urging county leaders to move ahead with plans to build a new jail.
"It is time for action to result from previous studies and planning," jail inspectors said in a report approved by Blake E. Taylor Jr., director of inspections for the state Department of Corrections. Routine inspections Dec. 7 and Dec. 14 list deficiencies resulting from severe overcrowding, a problem county officials have known about for years. The report also discouraged extended use of a building at the Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds off Howard Street because it does not have an automatic fire alarm or sprinkler system, outside exercise yard or adequate toilet and shower facilities.
In the report reviewed yesterday by the Spartanburg County Council, Taylor asked county officials and Larry Powers, director of the county jail, to spell out how they will correct the deficiencies. He also asked them to answer four specific questions by March 18, 1991:
By November, five months into the fiscal year, the county had spent all of the money budgeted to pay the city for keeping inmates at the city jail, county Administrator Roland Windham said. The county has agreed to pay for two more officers per shift to augment the city jail's staff because of the large number of county inmates housed there.
Powers and other county officials said they will respond to prison officials questions in coming weeks, although there are no clear answers to some queries. "They want to know everything," Powers said.
County officials have spent little time discussing future uses of the existing jail. Female prisoners are housed at the city jail, while juveniles are kept in a designated section of the county jail.
County Council members are waiting for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete an assessment of wetlands at a 43-acre site off California Avenue in Spartanburg. The county wants to build a $15 million, 240-bed jail there, with future expansions of up to 620 beds.
It will take about three years to build the new jail at the site, which the county hopes to buy for no more than $645,000.
Yesterday, the council clarified a motion made Aug. 22 that allows officials to proceed with condemnation of the property if negotiations with landowner Mildred Walker fail.
The county is spending about $1 million to convert a warehouse near the county jail into a temporary 130-bed jail to ease overcrowding. It's expected to open by late February.
Earlier this month, the county had to use a building on the Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds to house those arrested in a major drug sweep. Prison officials do not view the use of that building as a long-term alternative.