New Jail On Track With Modifications

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
The new Benton County jail is a working, moving, breathing project according to Benton County Presiding Commissioner Steve Daleske. It is on schedule and is expected to be completed in late September or early October 2020. 
“The footings have been poured, and prefab walls are to be put up in mid November,” said Commissioner Daleske. “The Commission has approved two changes to the original construction. We shifted the building 10 feet to the north and 10 feet to the east, reducing the cost of the retaining wall. We also had to change to flowable fill of cement and sand under the south footings because there was more rock than expected.”
Commissioner Daleske reported that there will be a south parking lot, by the front entrance to the building, that is for staff and the general public. The north parking lot will be for staff and personnel. Also on the north side, there will be a sally port (passage into the fortified part of the building) where persons needing processing will enter. After processing, they will either be released on bond, or held in custody.
According to Sheriff Eric Knox, the current jail (built in 1856) is not suitable for people who work for the county or for the detainees. The second floor of the jail is sealed off to keep the rest of the building free of the approximately 9,000 bats which have invaded the space between the ceiling and the roof. In a report by Sheriff Knox at the site of, he said that extra beds sometimes have to be brought in to take care of detainees. The present jail houses 24, but the new facility will have 80 beds with the possibility to expand to 100 beds. The new jail will include a small courtroom, office space and a secure garage.
A new jail proposal didn’t pass in 2016, possibly because of the planned downtown location, at a cost of $12 and a-half million. Proposition 1 on April 2, 2018 was approved by voters to build a new jail on old Hwy 65, near Studio 86 Salon, at a cost of $10 million. A county-wide sales tax in the amount of one-half of one percent for a period of about 21 years has been imposed for the purpose of operations and paying for the construction of the jail.
Some employees of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office as well as other law enforcement personnel who used to be housed in the old jail have had to find other office space, but the Sheriff has not moved. It is a possibility that personnel can move into the new jail when its office space is completed, even if other parts of the jail are still under construction.
“This can be done if it is feasible to do so without interfering with ongoing construction,” said Commissioner Daleske.
He commented about the fact that there had not been time to schedule a ground breaking ceremony when construction began, but he said that a grand opening ceremony was probably more important.