Polk closes old jail 

Published 10:39 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Plans to house communications in building 


COLUMBUS—Polk County has officially closed its former jail, located at 40 Ward Street, Columbus.  

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The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and heard from County Manager Marche Pittman, who spoke of a letter he drafted to the state jail consultant to close the jail and request inspections cease.  

Pittman said the old jail is being repurposed to house the county’s communication department.  

“If we don’t officially close it, they inspect it as if it is open,” Pittman told commissioners.  

Polk County built a new law enforcement center and officially moved in last August. The new building is located at 164 Government Complex Drive just outside Columbus Town Limits off Highway 108.  

Pittman’s letter to the state gives notice that all persons committed to the custody of the Polk County Sheriff shall be confined at the new facility.  

“Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit or limit the authority of the sheriff to house prisoners committed to his custody in quarters, approved by the Department of Health and Human Services, other than the county jail,” Pittman said.  

Pittman also said the sheriff’s office no longer had the need to maintain the old jail at 40 Ward Street.  

“The property is being repurposed to office space for our communication division,” Pittman said. “We request that inspections of the old Polk County Jail, pursuant to Division of Health Services regulation (DHSR)-10A NCAC Subchapter 14J Jails, Local Confinement Facilities end at this time.”  

The former Polk County Jail was constructed in the early 1970s and failed inspections prior to the new facility being constructed.  

The county took out a $13.5 million loan to construct the new facility, which includes additional land for future government needs, such as a new courthouse and administrative offices. The county purchased almost 22 acres of land adjacent to the Milliken plant in Columbus.  

The new law enforcement center is a 60-bed facility, which is able to house males, females and juveniles. The former jail had 25 beds and only housed adult males.  

Polk County approved a two-cent tax increase a few years ago to pay for the new jail, and thought another two cents would be needed a couple of years ago, but commissioners were able to make the debt service payments without a second tax increase.  

County officials have not given a timeline of when the communications department will be moved to the former jail.  

This is Polk County’s first Jail, which was built in the 1850s by the same two men, Ephraim Clayton and George Shackleford, who constructed the 1859 Polk County Courthouse. This photo of the county’s first jail was taken in 1937. The first jail was located on Walker Street in Columbus. (Submitted photo)

Polk County’s new law enforcement center, which opened last year. (Photo by Leah Justice/Tryon Daily Bulletin)