July 8, 2014

County jail re-opens after remodeling

By Stephanie Allums
Farmer Staff Writer

After many months of the McKenzie County Jail being closed for construction and remodeling, it has finally opened its doors again.
The McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office began filling cells at the newly-remodeled jail in Watford City on Wednesday, June 25. Deputies have kept up with the flow of traffic fairly well with inmates moving in and out as need be over the past several weeks, according to Sheriff John Fulwider
“We are taking in inmates and transferring them out in the afternoons when needed,” Fulwider said. “If we fill up, we release inmates to Stark County or Williams County if spots are available. Some inmates go to the STOP Facility in Bismarck.”
The newly-remodeled jail has nine long-term cells, which seem to stay full. Inmates are transferred to surrounding county jails when necessary, Fulwider said.
There are two temporary holding cells and a couple of detox rooms as well. As far as jail capacity, it’s not much different than it was before the remodel.
The opening date for the jail was pushed back numerous times due to a variety of issues that have finally been resolved.
“We came across some minor bugs with the doors and locks,” Fulwider said. “But they have been fixed.”
“Our jail is a holding spot,” Fulwider said. “I see our jail as a stopping point.”
The McKenzie County Jail is lacking jail cells, even after the remodel. Surrounding counties are turning down McKenzie County inmate transfers because they are at capacity as well.
There is one obvious solution to these issues, according to Fulwider. And that is to add more jail cells. The McKenzie County Board of Commissioners has also come to the conclusion that the county must build a new jail to accommodate its own criminal load.
A few of the locations being analyzed for building a new jail include a U-shaped lot south of the Watford City Airport; a lot south of Whiting Oil & Gas Company; or west of the existing courthouse and jail. A location has not yet been selected and no plans are set in stone.
With a larger jail would come more employees to help run the facility. And with that, they would need more training and certification. This project is one big puzzle; in order for it to come together, all of the pieces need to fit just right. That’s what the commissioners and Sheriff’s Office are trying to do.
Building a new jail is not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when’ and ‘where.’