Cleveland County Breaks Ground on New Jail

Monday, October 19th 2009, 4:28 pm
By: News 9

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

NORMAN, Oklahoma -- It's taken 12 years, but Cleveland County has finally broken ground on a new jail. A host of county officials was on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony. Some doubted this day would ever come.

"There were times when I served as police chief of the university that I didn't think the county would ever have a facility big enough to address the needs of the citizens of the county," Cleveland County Sheriff Joe Lester said.

Last December voters okayed a sales tax increase to replace the existing and habitually overcrowded jail.

Still, the sheriff had to keep shuffling employees around and creating new space inside to house prisoners.

It's taken 12 years to get to this point--years of planning, years of frustration, years of protests from homeowners over the site selection, and years of threats from state jail inspector Don Garrison.

"He told me point-blank that if we didn't get this facility we'd face a $10,000 fine, or the possibility of a $10,000 fine," Cleveland County Commissioner Rusty Sullivan said.

But now the jail inspector and everybody else involved should be happy. Construction is in the hands of a company with a lot of experience.

"We built several jail projects, in fact, our team on this project has built several," said Robert Renshaw with Timberlake Construction. "They just came off of the jail in Dodge City, Kansas that has just been finished."

The new jail should be open in the spring of 2011.

Learn more about the new jail tonight, on NEWS 9 at 5 and 6 p.m.