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Decision to tear down the old Cole Co. jail postponed

Published On: Feb 18 2014 04:11:34 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 18 2014 06:25:07 PM CST
Old Cole County Jail

The Cole County Commission met today to vote whether or not to tear down the old county jail and build a new courtroom in its place.

After hearing from the Historic City of Jefferson group, it decided to postpone the vote for now and look into other options.

For over an hour, the commissioners discussed the old jail with the historical society.

The commissioners explained that their plan to demolish the building and build a new one will fix a major spacing issue they have been facing for years.

The Cole County Courthouse only has one large courtroom that is able to hold a jury trial comfortably.

Commissioners say another is desperately need and this property is in the perfect location because of its proximity to the current courthouse.

 "We need this courthouse space. Particularly, we need a large courtroom. We have one. Its overused. Our smaller courtrooms don't do the relief that's necessary, so we need a bigger courtroom," said Presiding Commissioner Marc Ellinger

This historical society says they understand the space is needed, but is asking the commission to remodel, not tear down the old jail.

"We think it could be used for another purpose. We'd certainly like to see that retained," said Steve Veile of Historic City of Jefferson.

But commissioners say a remodel, which would probably mean gutting the building, would cost more.

Flattening the building and then building a new one would cost $1.65 million. Gutting the place could cost over $4 million.

Commissioners say there is not room in the budget for that and raising taxes is not an option.

"We're leaning towards taking down the old jail and creating a new space, but we want to make sure there's an opportunity to explore all of the options."

So, the commissioners say they will take the next few weeks to look at other options to see if it is possible to keep the old jail, while still providing the new courtroom that is needed.

Commissioners say they will make a decision Wednesday, March 5th.


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