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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Jail construction begins with site preparation by inmates

Friday, March 16, 2012

Photo by Richard Irby The old nursing home on Highway 9 in Salem was cleaned out, and a portion of its raised roof was taken down by inmates of the North Central Unit state prison, the week of March 5. The portion where the roof was removed is to be demolished, as the county prepares the property for construction of a new jail this summer. [Order this photo]

Monday, March 5, was an unusual day of activity at the long vacant Salem nursing home.

After years of talking about building a new jail in Fulton County, that activity was the first sign of actual work toward construction.

Up on the roof of the former nursing home, electric drills were whining.

Out a side door, two men dressed in white struggled with a shower curtain full of junk to be dumped into a front loader.

"What you got there?" someone asked, as another man exited the door with a strange smile. He was carrying an artificial leg.

32 inmates from the North Central Unit state prison at Calico Rock arrived on March 5 to begin demolition work on a portion of the old nursing home -- the beginning of work to prepare the jail site for construction.

"They didn't waste any time when they got here. They got right to work," County Judge Charles Willett said, as he looked at three separate areas of activity in the nursing home parking lot, on Main Street, next to Preacher Roe Park.

One group of inmates was on the roof removing roofing tin and handing it down to be stored for future use.

Another group was bundling up electric lines that the North Arkansas Electric Co-op had taken down -- lines which used to supply power to the nursing home.

A third group, coming in and out of the side door, were carrying out furniture, medical equipment and a variety of other items used for patient care before the facility closed several years ago.

"I originally planned to advertise for someone to remove the roof where we are going to tear off," Willett said. "But I called to see if the prison's maintenance group might be available to help out, and they were. They have always been good to us, and they are doing work we were going to pay to have done."

Willett hoped to have the inmates for a week, and they worked three days and returned on Friday..

"They sure got a lot of work done," Willett said, as the workers finished up.

On Monday, tin was removed from a large section of the roof, the electric wire was stored for salvaging and county road workers hauled truckloads of nursing home contents to the landfill. Other items that could be sold later for salvage were set aside.

Midmorning, as the removal of roofing tin was progressing, Sheriff Buck Foley arrived with an idea.

"Do you think we can salvage that roof lumber?" Foley asked Willett.

Willett said he wasn't sure, as he looked up at the rafters being exposed as tin was removed. His concern was, a lot of labor would be involved removing nails that secured the boards in place.

But, by afternoon, inmates on the roof were handing down the boards, while others on the ground were removing nails from them.

By Wednesday afternoon, the unneeded section of the raised metal roof was totally removed, as were all the boards, leaving the original flat tar roof visible.

Refrigerators, hot water heaters, beds, bookcases, old televisions, potty chairs, lighting fixtures and other castoffs had been hauled away.

"All we had to pay for the work was lunch each day for the prisoners," said Willett, who dropped off a big bag of treats from Dairy Queen to thank the inmates for a job well done.

The next step -- demolition will involve county employees.

The Road Department is going to use its equipment to remove the back end of the west wing of the nursing home. Workers are confident they are up to the task, although they've never demolished such a solid building before.

After getting the raised roof off, Willett was looking for advice on how to deal with the flat roof that remains. Steel roof beams will, likely, have to be removed before the demolition can begin.

"We hope to be in demolition in a few days," the Judge said. "I'm also going to contact Lee and Associates to see how they are coming along on the final plans."

It appears the new jail will sit closer to the old nursing home than originally discussed. A walkway will connect the two buildings, and the nursing home's kitchen and laundry will be used by the jail.

The remaining part of the nursing home will house a courtroom, the 911 dispatch center, storage for sheriff's department evidence and storage space for county records.

Uses are planned for the tin and lumber inmates saved from the nursing home work.

According to Willett, the Sheriff would like to eventually build a garage in back of the new jail, to provide a place to service and repair department vehicles.

Willett said the saved tin and some of the lumber will be used for a large new building at the road department.

"We need a big building to store equipment that currently just sits out all the time," Willett said. "We need a place to put our salt spreaders and other snow equipment, excavators, dump trucks and things like that. We'd like to get everything in the dry."

Those projects may be on the back burner for awhile, however, since there are a lot more details to take care of as a million dollar jail is built in months to come.

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Just a suggestion - if somebody owns a metal detector (the sort usually swept over the ground to find stuff like "treasure" or buried utilities) might volunteer to scan that salvaged lumber.

Might save $ replacing a Skilsaw blade - or somebody's eye.

-- Posted by HDucker on Fri, Mar 23, 2012, at 11:39 AM

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