By Kelsey Givens
More than a year-and-a-half after ground broke for the new Pahrump jail, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office hosted a ribbon cutting for the new facility Tuesday afternoon in celebration of the project’s long-awaited completion.
Several members of the NCSO, county commissioners, town board members, judges and other members of the community gathered outside the entrance to the new building behind the Pahrump sheriff’s office as Sheriff Tony DeMeo thanked everyone who made the new jail possible.
“I want to thank you all for being here. I want to thank the Nye County commissioners because they’re the ones that said ‘yes,’ with their vote. I want to thank Pam Webster for coming up with funding for this project. I want to thank our partners, J & A Architects, HOK, C3 Corrections and of course Layton Construction, our project manager Bob Jones. I just want to say thanks,” he said as the event began.
County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman, the commission’s chairperson, cut a very patriotic looking ribbon with an oversized pair of scissors before those waiting outside were able to enter the facility to see what taxpayers’ money had built.
Jail commander Lt. Jack Hennigan and DeMeo gave the group a tour of several of the larger areas of the new detention facility, including the entryway, booking area, medical cells, administrative offices, kitchen, laundry room and cells.
Other areas were roped off or closed off for security purposes.
“It’s our job to inform the public, not to educate the criminals,” DeMeo said as those with cameras were asked not to photograph certain areas of the facility.
As the tour group came to each new section of the jail, both Hennigan and DeMeo would explain what people were looking at and why it was designed the way it was.
Many of the design elements were either meant to correct something that didn’t work or was missing from the current facility or to keep a calm and productive attitude for those incarcerated or working in the jail.
A special interest was also placed on making sure the facility was better able to accommodate the medical needs of its inmates as well as legislative mandates handed down by the state since the last facility was constructed.
“I’m very proud to tell you that this facility is ADA Americans with Disabilities Act compliant. We have handicapped cells, we have raised toilets in the handicapped cells, we have safety bars and we have showers in every housing area that are wheelchair accessible. Three of our cells have plug-ins in them in case we have somebody on oxygen. We can plug their oxygen machine in and they’re in good shape in that respect and the cord is inside the cell so it’s not accessible for anyone else to get,” Hennigan explained.
And the jail is also home to two new pressurized cells that can house anyone, inmate or not, suffering from a contagious communicable disease, like tuberculosis, until they can be taken to a more secure medical facility. This was something mandated by the state legislature in 2003, DeMeo said, but missing from Nye County jails until now.
As the tour continued Hennigan and DeMeo made sure to answer any questions visitors had about the facility or how it would be used in the future.
With the project finally complete, Hennigan said he hopes to begin phasing inmates into the jail by mid-August once detention staff has been fully trained on the facility.
The plan as of now is to start by bringing over the inmates from the current Pahrump jail and letting the staff get used to working with that many inmates, before bringing down inmates from Tonopah as well.
Though the need for a new jail was clearly present years before the project actually began, a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union to the commissioners in March 2009 about the condition of the current jail may have been the final nudge they needed to OK the expensive project.
Ground broke for the new facility in December 2010, and since then the project has cost the county a reported $17.7 million.