Dorchester County jail is millions over budget

Dorchester County jail is millions over budget

DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A new jail for Dorchester County is millions of dollars over budget. Now, the county has a week to figure out how to make up the difference.

Dorchester County Sheriff L.C. Knight says the county jail in St. George is seriously overcrowded.

"Our jail in St. George is built for 156," Knight said. "I looked this morning, and I think our number is 269."

Another problem is just organizing the inmates.

"We have to have to come up with a classification and classify all the inmates," Knight said. "You can't put a sinister inmate with a non-sinister inmate. You can't put someone who committed an armed robbery with someone I call a deadbeat dad. When you run out of room, where do you put them?"

To fix the issue the county plans to get rid of its more than 25-year-old jail in St. George and build a much bigger one on Hodge Road in Summerville. The new facility will be around 80,000 square feet with room for 350 inmates and room to expand to up to 500.

Two years ago, the county approved an $18 million bond issue to pay for the project, but Knight said construction costs have gone up about 10 percent each year.

The bids for the project range from $18.87 million to $20.69 million. That's on top of the cost of buying the land.

"It looks like we're going to need somewhere around another $4.5 million to 5 million to get the facility at what we've gotten drawn and what we think from the consultant's information we need for Dorchester County," Knight said. "I'd love to spend this $20 million or $23 million on other things, but if we don't have a jail what will we do with them?"

Next Monday, when 2015 budget discussions begin, the county will have to figure out where to find that money. Knight says it can't be put off any longer.

"This was a necessity 5, 6, 7, 8 years ago," Knight said. "The county just didn't have the money to do it and now they seem they seem to think they have the money so we can do it and it needs to happen."

Knight expects the county to issue additional bonds to pay for the extra cost. He said the new jail could be finished in two years. There are no firm plans for the current jail building in St George.

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