Cherokee Sheriff’s Office officials welcomed local leaders and members of the public to the Adult Detention Center Friday as the agency officially opened a new housing tower at the jail.
The six-floor tower, attached to the older sections of the detention center by an enclosed walkway, features 583 new beds, which includes nine isolation beds. Coupled with the beds in the older portions of the jail, this gives the detention center a total of 1,194 beds, said Major Charles McMahan, who serves as a jail administrator.
“This gives us more flexibility to manage our inmate population, including our special needs population,” McMahan said.
Officials said they aim to start housing people in custody at the tower by the end of May. Three of the six floors are housing and the other three levels are for deputies’ use. The first floor of housing dedicated to efficiently housing inmates with disabilities. This includes featuring only one level of cells on the first floor so these inmates cannot fall from an upper cell level, while the other two floors have housing pods with a lower and upper level of cells. All three floors for inmates have an indoor recreation yard with an opening to allow fresh air and natural lighting into the space, while each floor also has rooms that can be used for education. Directly above each floor of housing space is one of the deputies’ levels, with a “tower” that overlooks the housing and recreation pods where deputies can watch inmates and control cell doors, among other tasks.
“We hope this will be able to manage our needs for the next 20 to 25 years,” McMahan said.
Sheriff Frank Reynolds said he was grateful to have the resources available in Cherokee County to add this new housing tower, while recognizing citizens throughout the county for their support, as the expansion was built using money collected through the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. Reynolds also thanked former sheriffs Bo Ballard and Roger Garrison for their work to build and expand the jail, as well as Cherokee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Harry Johnston, former commission chairman Buzz Ahrens and County Manager Jerry Cooper for their support.
Johnston said the expansion was built on time and came in under budget, as a strong step to help keep the county the great place it is. In 2017, $23 million in SPLOST money was set aside for the project, while an additional $20 million from an earlier SPLOST was available for the expansion as well. When the $23 million was approved in 2017, sheriff’s office officials said the jail was operating at 133% capacity.
Later, Ballard said he was amazed at what the agency was able to get done through the housing tower expansion. He said he, Garrison and Reynolds had all done things that greatly improved the sheriff’s office. Garrison said he was proud of Reynolds’ professionalism.
“While we may not like it, we’ve got to have this,” Garrison said. “We spent $1 million a year to build the expansion added while I was sheriff. We were behind the curve then, but Sheriff Reynolds, he’s ahead of it.”
Following the ribbon cutting, everyone present was invited into the new housing tower for lunch and tours of the expansion.