Walton Changes Gears On Jail Project

Overcrowding has been a long-standing problem at the Walton County jail in DeFuniak Springs..

County Commissioners okay'd a jail expansion project earlier and the work was already underway. But several weeks ago commissioners abandon the expansion to look at other options.

On January the 12th at 2:00, Walton County put the expansion of the DeFuniak Springs jail on hold. Now, almost two weeks later, on hold has changed to stopped as county commissioners vote to build an entirely new jail almost 4 miles north of the city.

Walton resident J.B. Hillard thinks it was a good move. “I feel very elated that the county commissioners have finally heard the people and made a right decision. It’s going to be a far reaching thing for Walton County.

Hillard is one of many local residents who are applauding the decision of the county commission. Another one is Sheriff Ralph Johnson. “When they got it built basically it would be full, also the admin building for this downtown location was full for the sheriff. Also the offices for the courthouse would be full when it’s constructed so when you go off site you can do it cheaper and you have room to expand.”

But what about the almost 5 million dollars spent on the canceled job and the up to 85 thousand dollars in construction delay fees.

Walton Commissioner Larry Jones doesn’t see it as a problem. “A large portion of that we believe that we'll be able to recoup due to the fact that a lot of the dollars are for hard product we can use in the other facility north of town.”

Commissioners say 2 million dollars alone was spent on jail pods that can be used at the new jail.

One benefit of the current construction is that it gave the sheriff's office more room to put down inmate tents and administrative offices, temporary solutions for a severely overcrowded facility.
But most people at Tuesday’s meeting weren't worried about the cost, they were just happy to see the jail moving out of downtown DeFuniak Springs.

After 60 days county commissioners plan to have a design in place for the new jail which will be built near the Walton Correctional Institute.

Sheriff Johnson estimates the project will take around 2 years to complete.