An area previously vacated at the Franklin County jail finally is returning to its intended use — housing inmates.

When the juvenile detention center moved out of the Franklin County Adult Detention Center, 305 S. Main St., Ottawa, to its new location, 226 S. Beech St., Ottawa, in June 2012, that space was meant to be used as jail cells, Jeff Richards said, but the change has taken a little longer than expected.

The transition back to jail cells required a number of alterations to the facility, Richards, Franklin County sheriff, said.

“There were doors that needed to be changed because there was a classroom in there, so it had a wood door,” he said. “We’ve had to install a new toilet because one [space] didn’t have it and we have to have a sink and toilet in all cells ... we’ve had to do some of those things.”

The space has the ability to hold 10 inmates right now, he said, but once the rest of the area is completed, it could hold as many as 13 inmates.

The sheriff’s office and jail are cramped, Richards said, with two administrative positions working out of two jail cells because of lack of space. Once the former Neosho County Community College building is transformed into office spaces for the sheriff’s office, Franklin County district attorney’s offices and juvenile services offices, two more cells will open for additional space as well, Richards added.

“Right now, the jail administrator’s office is in one of the old cells and so is the department armory and supply room. And so once the sheriff’s offices move, it will free up those two cells ... With temporary beds in them, we can house as many as six more inmates,” he said. 

In 2013, the jail averaged housing 50 inmates per day, with an average of four people being booked per day, Richards said. Having more available space to house inmates keeps the jail form having to transfer inmates to another county’s jail, which can be costly, he said.

“When we were housing [inmates] outside the county, we were paying just over $300,000 a year to house them outside the county,” he said. “We are not currently housing [inmates] outside the county, but we just want to make sure that we don’t have to.”