What was a decades-old goal for some, and a recent controversy for others was settled without fanfare Tuesday night.
The Walton County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 to build a new jail off Georgia Avenue and Baker Street near the Division of Family and Children Services building. This site places a future Public Safety Complex near the Government Building, which houses the county’s courtrooms.
Chairman David Thompson made the motion to approve the jail construction on the site near DFACS, with Commissioners Lee Bradford (District 4) and Kirklyn Dixon (District 6) opposed to the measure.
“At our last work session this last week we got down to location,” Thompson said prior to making his motion. “Everybody that was there agreed, yes, we need a new jail facility. It took a lot of education to get to that point. Yes, it is going to cost an awful lot of money. Yet, we still are approaching the problem of location.”
Thompson said he listened to residents and weighed their concerns with the necessity of providing for the safety of jail staff and supporting the court system.
The vote came at the end of a fairly quiet hour-long meeting that began with a handful of citizens voicing opposition to the jail being built in any residential area. These residents spoke for a total of 15 minutes during the public comments portion of the meeting. Most reiterated that a jail is needed, but said the best site for it would be on Cherry Hill Road. This area, they said, is more industrial in character.
“We don’t feel we’re being listened to,” said lifelong Walton County resident Robin Peters. “I feel like you’ve already made up your minds. And I don’t think it’s fair.”
Thompson originally presented commissioners with a plan in July to buy land on East Church Street but backed away in the face of public outcry, including a resolution by the Monroe City Council.