LAWRENCE COUNTY, Mo. — A groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday marked the start of expanding operations for the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.

A $22 million facility will soon replace the old jail with a more modern detention center.

“It will be one of the best state-of-the-art facilities in the state, if not in the country,” said Sheriff Brad DeLay. “Our current jail is, quite frankly — it’s unsafe. It’s understaffed. It’s old. Things are falling apart. … The facility we have now is rated at a 52-bed facility. The new facility, when it opens, will be right around maybe a little more than 120 beds.”

On top of that, DeLay said it will bring department operations under one roof.

Voters approved a sales tax to finance the construction.

With the new facility now in the works in Mt. Vernon, the sheriff said the focus now turns to getting more staff members on board.

“We’re going to need more staff,” said DeLay. “That is going to be our biggest challenge, is finding those people who want to serve their community.”

However, he said it’s something being worked on in advance.

“We were able to put in eight new positions for the jail this year,” said DeLay. “That will be ready, hopefully, when the jail opens. We’re also going to be hosting our own law enforcement academy here.“

The facility could be completed as soon as Feb. 2024.