Tue., February 19, 2013 3:00pm (EST)

Wanted: Funds For Jail, Courthouse
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 1 year ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
Sheriff Al St. Lawrence would like to hire 94 new employees for the Chatham County Detention Center. (Photo by Davidson Scott)
Sheriff Al St. Lawrence would like to hire 94 new employees for the Chatham County Detention Center. (Photo by Davidson Scott)
Chatham County officials plan to tour the county's new jail still under construction Wednesday.

The $109 million detention center is just one facility demanding more dollars from a limited county budget.

A voter-approved local sales tax is paying for the jail and it's coming in under budget.

But the cost of operating it is becoming a daunting task.

Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence says the larger jail cannot fulfill its purpose without $5 million for more staff.

"I do not want to wind up like Fulton County and being under court under for overcrowding," says Sheriff St. Lawrence.

A stalled a renovation of the county courthouse is compounding the problem.

The courthouse faces the possibility of continued over crowding and trial delays.

"We have more judges than we have courtrooms," says Chatham County Chief Judge Michael Karpf. "And that causes problems when you have a judge who can't hold a court session because of lack of a courtroom. Cases are delayed."

The county purchased a new building to help ease the situation, but funding for renovations have run out.

"Maybe we need a full accounting to see. Maybe there are some funds." says Chief Judge Karpf. "There's a lot of money flying around here. And we need to know where it all went."

County Commissioners are tackling jail and courthouse needs in their ongoing annual budget process.

Much will depend on projected tax revenues.