NASHVILLE -- Across from the Berrien County Agricultural Building on County Farm Road, bulldozers and other equipment are readying the ground for the site of the new county jail.

The 26,000-square-foot facility, expected to be complete within 15 months, will cost $4.5 million. Special Local Option Sales Tax funds will cover a large portion of the money, Berrien County Sheriff Jerry Brogdon said. About $2 million from a drug settlement the sheriff department recently received will also go toward the building.

The county has been planning for a new jail facility for years, Brogdon said.

"A new jail will help us manage our situation better," he said, adding that the county's current facility can only house 26 inmates. The new one will allow the county to hold about 72 inmates -- men and women. It will also allow the department to keep groups of prisoners separated.

In addition, the facility will house the sheriff's department and the future enhanced 911 center, which is estimated to begin serving the community about the same time the jail opens.

The county is in the process of collecting money for 911, and will soon begin mapping out the county in order to better locate emergencies. Part of the jail cost includes state-of-the-art 911 equipment.

"We're not going to start off in the red," Brogdon said.

Brogdon said plans for the facility will be based on the recently completed Cook County jail. It will have a two-story central control center with rows of cells and other rooms surrounding it, with 24-hour surveillance. The operator will be able to automatically lock all the cell doors. Also, Brogdon said, expansion would not be a problem.

Also in the new building will be a courtroom, an office for the clerk of court and an office for a Superior Court judge. This will save the deputies from having to physically transport inmates from the jail to the courthouse, making the office that much more efficient.

To contact reporter Marie Arrington, please call 244-3400, ext. 254.

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