Cleveland County Commission chairman George Skinner said Tuesday he was “pleased” by a meeting between himself and state corrections officials about the possibility of locating a new county jail in Lexington.

And while Skinner continued to stress that “no decision had been made” regarding the jail’s final location, he did paint a positive image of the Lexington site.

“I felt good about the meeting today,” he said. “It was a good conversation, we looked at some (good) possibilities.”

Should the county build a jail in Lexington, Skinner said some of the jail’s operating costs could be recovered by leasing “up to 100 beds or so” to the state Department of Corrections.

That idea was supported by DOC spokesman Jerry Massie.

“We’re always looking for ways we can increase bed space,” Massie said. “We want to cooperate with other entities in law enforcement.”

The idea of locating the county’s new jail to far eastern Cleveland County is the latest proposal being considered by the three-member commission.

For more than two years county officials have struggled with just where to build a new jail.

Twice in 2006, commissioners were urged by the Oklahoma Department of Health to reduce the number of inmates in the jail. Unless the county’s inmate population was reduced, health department officials said the county could face large daily fines or the possibility of the jail being closed.

Commissioners briefly considered locating the jail in Moore, but city officials there raised cain about the idea, and Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis threatened to circulate an initiative petition to move all of county government to Moore should the city be “forced to become home” for the jail.

Lewis, a member the jail site selection committee, later resigned from the committee in protest.

County officials also considered expanding — or building near — the existing downtown jail; or constructing a new jail on a 30-plot of land along Franklin Road.

The Franklin Road site — near the Moore Norman Technology Center — drew opposition from several area residents and spawned two different legislative attempts to derail the project.

Still, earlier this spring, commissioners voted 2-1 to purchase the land for $1.2 million and finalized that purchase a few months ago.

Skinner said that land “was still being considered” for the jail, but added that if it wasn’t used, it could be resold “at a profit.”

Since then the county’s attention has been focused on Lexington — already the home to several state correctional institutions.

The spot currently being considered — a 240 acre-plot of land near the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center and the Joseph Harp Correctional Center — is owned by the Department of Corrections.

And while the county paid $1.2 million for its Franklin Road site, Skinner said officials could lease land from the corrections department for as little as $1 per year.

“Usually sate leases are along the price of $1 per year,” he said “That’s, most certainly, much cheaper.”

Yet not everyone is pleased by the idea of a Lexington jail.

Steve Stice, a Norman attorney, said locating a jail in Lexington would cause problems for attorneys trying to help their clients.

“I think the location on Franklin road is the best situation both for security reasons and for my own personal interests,” he said. “I think going to Lexington is going too far.”

And while Stice acknowledged he was in “a unique situation” because of what his occupation, and the location of his office, he said his main concern was the security issues of a remote jail location.

“People talk about using video conferencing on a remote site,” he said. “And while some things can be done via video conference, I don’t want to have a confidential conversation over an Internet connection with my clients. I don’t think it’s a good practice to for a lawyer to get into — to have a confidential conversation via a web cam.”

With the county’s inmate population now more than 20 over the jail’s 177-cell capacity commissioners are juggling time, location and money issues in an attempt to decide where a jail should be located.

This month the commission, along with architect Ben Graves and other officials, will attend a conference in Denver, Colo., sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

That conference, Skinner said, should help county officials decide where to locate the jail. In fact, he said a decision about the jail’s location should “come quickly after” the group returns from the Denver meeting.

“We don’t know yet,” Skinner said. “We still have more talkin’ to do and more things to work out.”

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