ADA — Architectural floor plans of proposed renovation of Pontotoc County courthouse and design of a new Pontotoc County Criminal Justice Center (county jail) will be placed in various locations in the county for the public to examine and discuss.

The current county jail built in the early 1970s, according to county commissioners and their advisory group, cannot be economically expanded or rehabilitated to meet current jail standards.

“Public safety is an issue for me, the safety of our children now and in the future. I am 100 percent convinced our jail is inadequate and if we don’t do something about this issue now, it will be worse in the future,” said Steven Crawford, chairman of the advisory group and superintendent of Byng Schools.

“I want the safest county my 1700 kids (Byng Schools) can be secure in,” said Crawford. The site for the new proposed criminal justice center has not been chosen and the group is working on a selection.

Sponsors say the existing jail facility would be used for additional courthouse storage, having limited functionality if a new jail is built.

“That building won’t look like a jail when we’re done or we won’t be part of it,” said Crawford. He was referring to earlier statements made by advisory group members selected by the county commissioners over a year ago to review solutions to solve the county jail problems.

“We have designed a new jail to provide better security, less costly expansion and a 132-bed capacity for inmates,” said Ben Graves, Architects In Partnership, Norman.

“The renovations and expansion of the courthouse will provide the courtroom, office and storage space as well as enhancing the traditional structure with a functional plaza and additional parking,” Graves said.

Crawford told the advisory group and county commissioners the proposed county tax to fund a new jail and renovate the courthouse was the right thing to do.

“I’ll go down fighting. When you are passionate about an issue and you stick your neck out people will support you. If we lose this proposition on Dec. 12, we lose in public safety,” said Crawford.

The group will be scheduling a series of public meetings prior to the election to provide detailed information on the sales tax proposal and the legal issues the county faces for non-compliance to standard jail operations. Civic groups and businesses interested in hosting a public meeting on this issue are encouraged to contact Judge Tom Landrith or Janice Burns at 580.332.8940.