Ground broken for Franklin County Jail

July 16, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - "Nobody wants to build a prison," Franklin County Judge Douglas Herman said Friday morning, but they're building one in Franklin County - a $30 million, two-story jail that will hold up to 470 inmates.

Herman was one of several speakers at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Franklin County Jail to be built in a 20-acre lot on Opportunity Avenue in the Cumberland Valley Business Park on land that once was part of Letterkenny Army Depot.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners bought the tract for $1 from the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority, which runs the business park.


Actual construction costs will be $24.2 million, plus the cost of an elevator in the two-story, 135,000-square-foot building, Warden John E. Wetzel said. The rest will cover furnishings, equipment, design, engineering and permit fees.

Construction is expected to take about 20 months.

The existing prison on Franklin Farm Lane opened in 1972. It has been expanded since and has a capacity for about 200 prisoners. Last month, the daily average population was 350 inmates. The county has to house about 25 inmates a month in other facilities because of space problems, Wetzel said.

Plans for the new jail call for seven cellblocks - three for the general population, one for women, one for inmates who work within the prison, another for prisoners on work release and a restricted housing unit.

Each block will have 32 cells for 64 inmates arranged around a common area.

The existing Franklin County Prison has about 75 correctional officers plus another 25 support staffers, Wetzel said. A slight increase in staffing will be needed when the new jail opens.

The new facility will be called the Franklin County Jail, not Franklin County Prison like the existing facility, G. Warren Elliott, president of the County Commissioners, said Friday.

"The state runs prisons. Counties run jails, so that's what we're going to call it, a jail," Elliott said.

Among those present for Friday's groundbreaking were the county's four judges headed by President Judge John R. Walker, District Attorney John Nelson, the three county commissioners and a contingent of correctional officers who used shovels during the groundbreaking.

Two inmates on work release were there for the festivities, serving lunch for the more than 60 people who attended the ceremony.

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