New county jail passes inspection
By Ken Childers
The new Okfuskee County Jail, which was expected to be open more than a year ago, is one step closer to housing inmates.
On Tuesday, Scott Kennedy, a jail inspector for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, conducted an inspection of the new facility and gave it a passing grade.
The Okfuskee County Justice Authority, the board that oversees the jail, was present for the inspection. The authority convened for its regular meeting at the courthouse earlier that morning, then voted to recess and reconvene at the jail.
While at the new facilities, trustees Danny Wilson, Terry Wilson and James Yandell approved over $230,000 in invoices from the architectural firm and construction company hired to construct the jail. Last month, the authority disapproved the invoices, citing previous failed inspections.
Amounts approved for payment on Tuesday included $224,409.14 to Atlas Construction and $6,004.13 to Architects in Partnership. Also on Tuesday, the trustees signed off an a “certificate of substantial completion,” after refusing to do so in October.
According to Sheriff Jim Rasmussen, the next step is the issuance of a certificate of occupancy. The jail passed an inspection by the state fire marshal’s office in March.
The current jail, housed on the fifth floor of the Okfuskee County Courthouse, has been in operation since 1927. The facility, known in some circles as “High Five,” has been plagued by overcrowding issues, with some inmates reportedly sleeping on the floor. The jail has been damaged numerous times by inmates, including flooding caused by the intentional clogging of toilets. The carpet in the courtroom on the third floor has been replaced multiple times as a result of the flooding.
In August 2016, voters in Okfuskee County approved a three-quarter cent sales tax increase to build the new 88-bed facility on a five acre tract in the northeast corner of the Okemah Industrial Park. The land was donated by the City of Okemah. Construction began in August 2017 and, at that time, was expected to be completed by September 2018.
The new facilities include two 24-bed male dormitory pods, one 12-bed male medium/maximum cell pod, one 20-bed female dormitory pod, one 8-bed trustee cell and a sally port/booking facility. (Note: a “sally port” is a secure, controlled entryway). Other features include a kitchen, laundry, multi-purpose room, jail administrator’s office, video visitation/professional visitation, jail reception/records area, lobby and public restrooms, and an exterior recreation yard/area.