“This is kind of a beginning — a take off point for some new ventures for criminal justice and public safety. I think it gives us a great opportunity to do different things.” Sheriff Mike Neustrom
LAFAYETTE — A 29-acre site in the 1900 block of West Willow Street for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office’s planned public safety complex gives the office an opportunity to expand its corrections footprint outside downtown, authorities said Tuesday.
Sheriff Mike Neustrom and other public officials gathered near a grove of live oaks Tuesday morning to celebrate the ground-breaking for the complex, which is in an area with little residential development near North Pat Street.
When complete, the complex will house 200 minimum security inmates and 200 work release inmates, a Professional Development and Training Center, the video visitation facility and a warehouse building, which will include a central laundry and facilities maintenance, said Sheriff’s Office Director of Corrections Rob Reardon.
The downtown jail will remain a maximum security facility, Reardon.
Reardon and Neustrom said the new complex site also provides the Sheriff’s Office with space for future expansion.
While there’s no need to build a 2,000-bed facility today, “there might be 20 years from now and this will create that as a possibility,” Reardon said.
The Sheriff’s Office secured $21 million in bonds earlier this year to fund construction of the facility, which will be paid back over 20 years with revenue from a permanent, statewide millage that generates about $14 million annually for the office.
The project is expected to cost an estimated $24 million with the remaining costs expected to be covered by reserves, Reardon said.
Work on the site officially began in February, Reardon said.
“This is kind of a beginning — a take-off point for some new ventures for criminal justice and public safety,” Neustrom said. “I think it gives us a great opportunity to do different things.”
The land was purchased in July 2009 and allows the agency to expand its presence beyond the downtown area, where “we’ve been landlocked for the last 25 years,” Neustrom said.
The new site also may help the Sheriff’s Office expand other services, such as those directed to juveniles, Neustrom said.
“We have the programs; now we’ll have the facilities,” he said.
Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel said he believes Neustrom is keeping his eye on the future.
“Lafayette’s growing and it will continue to grow,” Durel said. “We have to continue to prepare the future, and I think what the sheriff is doing here is preparing us for the realities of a growing community. In a growing community, you’re going to have some crime.”
As for the seven large live oaks that sit on the southeast corner of the property, Reardon said they will remain and the shady grove beneath them will be converted into a walking trail paved with limestone.