A caravan of dump trucks hauled off the old Panola County jail in pieces last week, sparing a historic section of the 50-year-old jail in the process.
The jail’s remnants are being dropped at a county site, where workers will separate concrete from metal.
The county will use the concrete as rip-rap for creeks, said road manager Lygunnah Bean.
"The metal will go to Martin Brothers for scrap metal, and that money will go into the county’s road fund" Bean said at the jail site Friday morning.
Assistant county road manager Raymond Mickens is overseeing the demolition work, Bean said.
The Panola County Board of Supervisors voted Monday, May 2 to knock down the old jail, located at 200 Broadway in downtown Batesville.
The jail site will soon serve as a parking lot, said Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins. The county eventually hopes to use the property for an addition to the courthouse.
"We already have plans for the expansion, which were drawn up six or seven years ago" Perkins said.
The courthouse expansion depends on the expected sale of Tri-Lakes Medical Center to Dr. Bob Corkern. In addition to Corkern’s $28 million purchase of Tri-Lakes, the supervisors are asking $3 million for the county-owned west campus.
If the sale is successful, the county will use the $3 million for the expansion, Perkins said.
The jail was built in 1955 when James L. Travis was sheriff.
The county began using its current facility that houses the jail and sheriff’s department in 1995. That facility, known now as the David M. Bryan Justice Complex, is located at the county airport on Hwy. 35 North.
The late Sheriff Bryan and his family were the last residents of the jail’s adjoining home. They moved into another home in Batesville in 1995 when the new jail neared completion.
With a nod to county history, workers preserved the concrete "County Jail" slab that stood above the front entrance. The seven-foot-long slab came down nearly intact, minus a three-inch chunk at the top.
A home for the historic slab has not been determined. For now it’s sitting in a corner of the work site.
Assistant road manager Buddy Holland said he carefully used the forks of a Caterpillar front-end loader to chip away at the concrete caps that held the signage in place. He then used the forks to remove the slab.
Holland said the jail’s concrete flooring will be broken up into small pieces and hauled to creeks on Figg, Tocowa and Joiner roads.
"Except for the wood doors in the sheriff’s home, the entire building was concrete, even the roof and behind the bricks" Holland said.
The old jail has been mostly vacant since the newer county facility was built a decade ago. The county’s drug task force has been its only occupant.
Task force officers removed what they wanted last week, Bean said, and their left-behinds included pistol shell casings on a shelf and an NRA magazine in the bathroom.
The county used the jail for storage, filling it up with computer parts, broken chairs, and boxes of old records.
A tour of the old jail last week included a stop in a littered office, where the top of an old chest freezer had been used to stack an assortment of crime scene photos, mug shots, candid snap shots of sheriff’s deputies, and also a Father’s Day card.
A 1990 order from the Board of Supervisors, signed by the late David Ross Craig, lay atop the pile. The dusty, 10-page order apparently established a service work program for inmates for the sheriff’s department.
With the electricity off, the hallways and jail cells of the old jail were dark. The floor crackled from broken glass and who-knows-what-else.
"It gets spooky up in here" Bean said as he led the way.
In the back of the jail, light spilled into a row of jail cells, revealing green paint flaking off the steel cell doors.
Elsewhere in the jail, Bean pointed to a one-gallon jug of brown liquid that sat on the floor.
"Moonshine" Bean said. "We smelled it."
Holland later said he was in charge of the moonshine. Under his direction, the entire jar made the trip to a county landfill, meeting the same fate as the rest of the old downtown jail.