The Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the Phillips County Detention Center was held Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 1804 MKL Drive on Highway 49 Bypass.

Due to the inclement weather, most of the ceremony was held inside the old John Deere dealership building on the site, before moving outside for the actual ground-breaking shovel ceremony.

“Thank you for coming,” said Phillips County Judge Clark Hall in the event opening comments. “I appreciate the turn out.”

Judge Hall started the program with a prayer led by Lexa United Methodist Church Pastor Gary Maskell.

Judge Hall introduced several special guests, thanking them for attending this event, and recognizing them for their contributions toward making this project a reality.

Hall introduced the project Construction Manager, David Marsh of Benchmark out of Jackson Mississippi. Last year, Marsh had given a presentation to the Quorum Court, along with other interested parties. The Quorum Court selected Benchmark to lead this project.

Marsh said, “First, Judge Clark told me to tell them that this is not the jail. We’re going to build a new jail right over here. Second, this is going to be a state of the art facility.”

“The walls will be block, filled with concrete and rebar. It will have a concrete roof,” said Marsh. “Every security door is going to weigh 400 pounds plus. It has a very sophisticated security system, although it’s very user friendly. It’s so involved, that on a fail safe, you can actually use a key. It has features where you can punch one button and all the doors will open incase there is a fire where the inmates would go to a secure area that’s fenced in.”

“The plans have been reviewed and reviewed again,” said Marsh. “It meets all the standards and requirements for the American Correction Association and we had several Federal Agents come down, review the plans, look at everything and they gave it their seal of approval, This allows the county to be able to house federal inmates, which is a big deal.”

“Construction is going to start shortly, but its going to be a facility that you’re to be very proud of,” said Marsh. “When you drive by, you’re not going to look at it and say: ‘hey, theres the jail’ because the only razor wire thats on this project is for the exercise yard, in the back. All you’re going to see is a handsome county facility. Something that everyone can be proud of.”

“I could not leave this building without not thanking Amy Boyd,” said Judge Hall. “Our county attorney. And my wife Becky. My wife Becky keeps me focused, and I appreciate that. She made this reality. When I got down and didn’t think it was going to work, she kept me going. So I do appreciate that and I have to thank the voters of Phillips County.”

“You cannot imagine, when Amy and I went to Little Rock to talk to the Law Firm, they were not really positive on us having the ability to pass a bond issue and make this reality. In fact,” said Judge Hall. “Some of them were pretty blunt with me, that they’d tried before in the past and its never worked. But the commitment of the whole community of Helena-West Helena, the Harbor Board, the Director of the Harbor John Edwards, Mayor Jay Hollowell with the City of Helena, the City of Marvell. Everybody pitched in recognizing the need that we have here in Phillips County. They recognized that this is a necessary requirement for a community to be whole.”

“I look at this today as a ground-breaking for a new day in Phillips County and in Helena-West Helena,” said Hall. “We’re going to make this place better for all of us, all of our children. We’re going to make it to where the people who come to this county will be proud that they know us and that we are no longer second class citizens in the State of Arkansas.”

“I’d like to close with a shout-out to our Sheriff of Phillips County, Neal Byrd,” said Judge Hall. “Without his support. Without his engagement. Without him going out and campaigning everyday, explaining to the citizens of this county the need that we have. What he’s faced with. The citizens, the voters, stepped up to the plate and made this a reality. This is your facility.”