Construction begins at St. Helena Parish Jail facility _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Stephanie Warren -- Renovations have begun at the St. Helena Parish jail in Greensburg. Town officials said the $230,000 upgrades are expected to be completed by June.

Renovations have begun at the St. Helena Parish Jail in Greensburg.

As part of the renovations, improvements will be made to the booking area, and fingerprinting and processing will be moved to a room formerly housing communications.

The communications unit will be moved to the old chief deputy’s office, which will be enlarged to accommodate more than one dispatcher in case 911 is ever moved to the parish, Police Chief Chester Pritchett said. The 911 center in Amite manages the parish’s 911 calls, Pritchett said.

Improvements also will be made to the visitation area.

Sheriff Nat Williams said additional security measures will be added, including the installation of new security cameras and a fenced garage area. A secured entryway or sally port will be added for the safety of the prisoners and the public.

The new enclosures will feature remote-control operation so inmates can be loaded and unloaded behind the gated area.

“I pushed for years for new or improved jail facilities to address those safety concerns,” Williams said.

The sheriff said the cost of the renovations will come close to $230,000.

The project is funded through two 2014 Louisiana Legislature capital outlay appropriations of $190,000 and $50,000. The project is being overseen by the Louisiana Division of Facility Planning and Control, Williams said.

Architect John Campo developed the design based on Williams’ needs, and bids went out on construction. Hunt Ragusa General Contractors, of Independence, was awarded the contract.

Williams said he expects the renovations to be complete by late June.

The jail houses approximately 56 inmates, including 12 from the Department of Corrections.

The intake and processing of inmates is done in the building on the east side of the jail, which was built during the early 1980s and was the main office for the sheriff’s administrative office, with as many as a dozen offices crammed into the 3,500-square-foot building.

Needing more administrative space, Williams negotiated two years ago with the St. Helena Police Jury for use of about 9,000 square feet of the closed Health Unit.

Since then, Williams has moved the administration offices, detectives, civil, criminal and juvenile away from the courthouse square and into the old Health Unit building.

The sheriff asked that residents with business at the facility follow the signs and red cones directing walking traffic for safety measures and to avoid the construction areas.