Officials gather Tuesday to launch $12 million facility on Ace Road in Princeton
PRINCETON — With the ground frozen from this week’s snowfall, Bureau County officials swung sledge hammers and broke a wall, instead of ground, on the new law enforcement center Tuesday afternoon.
A ceremony was held inside the future facility, located at 800 Ace Road in Princeton.
The gathering drew county officials, past and present county deputies, past and present county board members, as well as members from the general public.
Bureau County Sheriff Jim Reed spoke during the ceremony and said he did not think he would ever see this project happen in his lifetime, especially not in his term as sheriff.
“My hat goes off to the county board, to tell you the truth. We brought this idea to them, they are the ones who oversaw it, looked at our plan and brought it together,” Reed said.
“Without that working relationship with this county board and a new sheriff, we could have never gotten this accomplished,” he said.
Reed said he could share all kinds of stories about the drawbacks of the current outdated jail facility, built in 1974, but one of the most memorable was coming to work on a Monday and finding raw sewage on the investigations desks and file cabinets.
“There are a lot of problems with our current facility. … On behalf of my deputies, we thank you very much. We really needed this,” he said.
Bureau County Board Chairwoman Marshann Entwhistle (R-Princeton) thanked county voters and past and present county board members who worked tirelessly to ensure this project became possible.
“This new facility will help keep employees of the sheriff’s department that work in the jail safe,” Entwhistle said.
“At the same time, (it will) allow the road deputies to complete their tasks in a more timely fashion for the security of our citizens. Finally, it will help the sheriff’s department comply with the state of Illinois Department of Corrections,” she said.
Entwhistle also pointed out the design of the facility will allow for future modifications and expansions of the jail.
Bureau County Board Vice Chairman Keith Cain (R-Princeton), who was chairman of the ad hoc committee for a new jail facility, thanked members of that committee who saw the potential in the former Bureau County Republican building.
“We could see it was a way to utilize a building that was sitting empty. It’s a good way of putting it back into production,” he said.
Construction on the facility officially begins this week. Vissering Construction of Streator was hired for the project after submitting an $11.9 million bid.
Plans for the new law enforcement center include a sheriff’s office that will hold the administrative team, investigations, D.A.R.E., road patrol, records, civil process, training and evidence processing.
The jail portion of the center will include 80 to 100 beds, both single and double bunked. There will be eight to 16 beds designated for medical/mental health housing. There will be 44 to 56 beds for males and 28 beds for females. Two female housing units will be separated by sight and sound.
The jail support services will include a booking center, vehicle sally port, jail lobby/visitation, medical clinic, kitchen, laundry, storage and video court. Shared components include locker rooms, training center and a break room.
The expected completion date is slated for November 2021.
This project became feasible after voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase proposal in November 2018, pushing the tax rate from 6.75 percent to 7.25 percent. The county began collecting on that tax increase in July 2019.
The county had purchased the former Bureau County Republican building in June 2018 at a cost of $725,000. The monies put toward the sale had been saved from when the county sold the former Prairie View Nursing Home.
The county board’s plan to retrofit the old BCR building and build on an addition to house jail cells is expected to save taxpayers approximately $3.3 million, compared to if the facility had been built from the ground up.
It took two tries for voters to commit to the sales tax increase, however. The first proposal on the March 2018 ballot was defeated by only a 10-vote margin.
The need for a new jail has lingered for quite some time. State studies conducted in recent years have deemed the current facility near Bureau County Courthouse outdated, antiquated, obsolete and dangerous. The facility was built 45 years ago when the inmate population was much different.