Friday, August 14, 2009

Old county jail becomes history

Demolition work should be completed this week

Express Staff Writer

A heavy-equipment operator digs into the old Blaine County Jail Wednesday at the corner of First Avenue South and Walnut Street in downtown Hailey. The work to remove every last vestige of the abandoned facility should be done this week. Photo by David N. Seelig

The demolition of the old Blaine County Jail and sheriff's office in downtown Hailey should be wrapped up this week.

The work, which began Tuesday, will result in the complete removal of the 1972-era facility, said Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman.

Speaking by phone from his office on Thursday in the Old Blaine County Courthouse, which is adjacent to the old jail, Bowman said he could see heavy equipment beginning to break through the rigid concrete and iron rebar jail cells. He said the reinforced cells were giving the contractor more of a challenge, though he still expected the work to be wrapped up soon.

"Judging by the way they're going, it should be done by late afternoon or tomorrow," Bowman said.

The demolition will cost the county about $12,000. The project was delayed earlier this year to give workers time to remove asbestos in the structure. The county also had to get demolition permits from the city of Hailey.

Work on the new Blaine County Public Safety Facility at the Airport West business park in Hailey was completed more than a year ago. The building houses a new jail, sheriff's office and the county's consolidated dispatch center.

Prison inmates were moved into the new jail in July 2008.

For the time being, the county will be smoothing out the site of the old jail and planting grass. Bowman said the former jail grounds could be used in a number of ways benefiting the public.

"Like a park or an ice rink," he said. "Or maybe a community garden."

Bowman said those uses would have to be temporary, as the site will eventually be used for some kind of new county building. He said the county will not sell the property, located at the intersection of First Avenue South and Walnut Street.

"It's such a great piece of property," he said.

Looking to the future, Bowman envisions the one-block stretch of First Avenue between Walnut and Croy streets becoming a public square closed to most vehicular traffic. The street already has the Blaine County Annex building and Old County Courthouse lining it. A vacant lot across the road from the historic courthouse could even house a future Hailey City Hall, Bowman said.

"You could definitely say this is the center of Hailey," he said.

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