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Macon County Jail project nearing completion

A renovation and construction project years in the making, is nearing completion.

The original building that housed the Macon County Sheriff's Office and Jail, will soon be no more.

The building was built in 1909, and has had few to no improvements since that date.

Over the years, the structure began to crumble.

In early 2014, the sheriff's office and jail were condemned.

Inmates where then housed in neighboring counties.

In April of the same year, Macon County voters were asked to approve new taxes that would go toward courthouse renovations and construction of a new jail.

Ground for the project was officially broken in May 2015.

The new facility is located near the former jail.

In early 2017, the sheriff's office and jail moved to their new location.

Macon County Sheriff Kevin Shoemaker says he and his staff have been busy getting the space up and running.

"We have officially moved. All the inmates are here. In fact, about two-thirds of our inmates are out-of-county inmates."

Because the new jail was built to connect the courthouse, transporting inmates to the courtroom is now much easier.

Inmates previously had to cross the street in order to get to court.

Shoemaker says the idea of the jail construction project was to conform to modern safety standards.

As a result, public safety will also be increased.

"We are much more secure now back in the jail. We don't have to worry about escapes anymore. Obviously, the inmates are going to misbehave every once in awhile. The staff, inmates, the public coming to visit, everybody is more secure now than what we used to be."

The brand-new jail is also utilizing more technology.

Family and friends of inmates have a space where they can video chat or deposit funds into an account to help the inmates pay for phone calls.

In addition, the jail area also has state-of-the-art surveillance equipment.

The layout of the jail is a 'U' shape to allow jailers to have a wide view of inmates in their pods.

Shoemaker says that although much of the construction on the offices and jail is complete, there is still some work to be done.

He says that right now, the kitchen is not fully functional.

The sheriff says that in order to make lunches and dinners, the kitchen in the former jail is still being used.

Once everything is complete at the new facility, the former building will come down.

"The old jail will eventually be demolished. Maybe some will be salvaged for historical purposes, but other than that, it's falling apart. We hope we can salvage a little bit, but otherwise, it will be hauled off to the dump."

Shoemaker adds that it's been exciting to see everything finally start to take shape.

"Really, for the last four years, the project has been in the making. Now that we've actually moved in, it seems pretty much surreal that we are here. It's finally done. We love it and we are happy. I hope the public is happy as well."

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