Fate of jail undecided
By GORDON JACKSON The Brunswick News
It took years of contentious debate before the Glynn County Commission agreed to build a new county jail rather than expand the existing facility in downtown Brunswick.
Now, commissioners face another question they hope won't generate much controversy before the new jail opens in 14 months on a 35-acre tract off U.S. 341, several miles north of the existing jail. And that's what to do with the soon-to-be-abandoned one.
The previous jail - today the expanded Harold Pate Building, just across the street from the current detention center - was transformed into county office space. But that might not be a feasible option today.
"We're good on office space for the next couple of years," County Administrator Alan Ours told commissioners during a non-voting retreat last week.
He suggested finding a tenant to occupy the building once the new jail opens, saying it would be a good location for a federal agency such as the U.S. Marshals Service. It's also possible the county could simply lock the building's doors until a future use is determined.
"I think it's important to have some type of plan," Ours said.
Commissioner Richard Strickland said he is concerned about public perception, if the old jail is leased to another law enforcement agency to hold prisoners. But he is also concerned about the cost to convert the jail to office space.
"It would cost a fortune," Strickland said.
Commissioner Bob Coleman said he didn't believe the public would complain if the building was leased to another law enforcement agency. The major objection when commissioners debated the issue was over expanding the old jail into the adjacent block, he said.
Commissioner Clyde Taylor said people opposed to jail expansion were happy the building would no longer house inmates when it closes.
"The expectation was the building would be used as a county office," Taylor said.
The options for the building include everything from finding a tenant to demolition, commissioners said. But it's unlikely a wrecking ball will be one of the options.
Commissioner Dale Provenzano said demolishing the 23-year-old building would not be greeted with much support.
"I think if we told people we were going to tear it down to the ground, we'd get crucified," he said.
Provenzano suggested the jail could be converted to a dormitory to house College of Coastal Georgia students.
Strickland said it's clear everyone has different ideas on how the building could be used and suggested each commissioner appoint one person apiece to serve on a committee to recommend ways to use the building once it is no longer occupied.
"The public expects a decision on the old jail before the new one opens," he said. "I don't think we are in any kind of consensus right now."
* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about government and other local topics. Contact him at email@example.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 323.