Sheriff proposes building new jail, citing hazardous health conditions

The Columbia County Detention Center (Joshua Turner / Banner News)

Sheriff Leroy Martin told Justices of the Peace on Monday that the county needs a new jail, as hazardous health conditions in the Columbia County Detention Center could cause problems for the county down the road.

Martin said the roof of the jail has severe leaks that are leading to mold.

"I'll tell you how bad it's getting -- some mold on the inside. We're cleaning it up," he said.

Martin said the water damage and mold are creating a brown residue that has spread to offices, cells and even the evidence room.

He said there is also a hole in the kitchen from which prisoners could potentially escape.

Martin also warned that much of the plumbing in the building is rusted and will need to be fixed or replaced.

One of the major concerns Martin noted is that people held in jail may be able to take legal action against the county for the hazardous conditions.

Martin proposed building a new detention center, as the current one may become more damaged, and housing prisoners at other facilities would cost more money than repairs would.

The current detention center was built around 1999 and has had issues for years, Martin said.

The Quorum Court had discussed replacing the detention center in September 2021.

No exact rebuilding cost was discussed then or at the recent meeting, but Martin warned that it would need to be decided upon quickly with the rising costs of new construction.

Various Justices asked if there was any way to avoid spending money but Martin told them that it was unavoidable.

No decision on how to move forward was made by the Quorum Court on Monday.