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Cape County hosts groundbreaking for jail addition

The County of Cape Girardeau held a groundbreaking ceremony for the county jail addition and 1908 county courthouse renovation on Tuesday, May 9. Photo by Jay Forness

Cape Girardeau County held a groundbreaking ceremony on May 9 at the site of the new addition to the county jail to celebrate the start of construction for the jail addition and renovations to the 1908 Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson.

Penzel Construction Company of Jackson and Treanor-HL Architects of Kansas City were chosen as the design-build team for the project in November and a contract was signed with the companies in January.

The $48,939,295 jail project will include the addition of 320 inmate beds, new kitchen and laundry facilities, a new inmate property system, an employee locker room, storage space and space to add an additional 48 beds in the future.

The project will also include renovations to the current jail space constructed in 2000, which will take place after the completion of the new addition. The 2000 jail addition will be able to house 150 inmates after the construction, and the original 1979 jail cells will no longer be used for inmates.

Excavation work for the jail addition, located to the north of the existing county jail, began on April 17. “As you can see, we are either late on the groundbreaking announcement or Penzel is early,” Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy said at the ceremony.

The jail expansion, which is expected to be completed in December 2024, will be funded by certificate of participation bonds, $10 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and proceeds from the law enforcement sales tax approved by voters in 2020.

Tracy said this project would not be possible without the passage of the law enforcement sales tax. “Thank you to this community,” he said. “It’s really a blessing to live in a community that supports law enforcement.”

Sherriff Ruth Ann Dickerson echoed Tracy’s statement, thanking the community for making this addition possible. She also thanked her staff, the county commission and county partners for their input for the project. “It was not a decision that was taken lightly,” she said. “A lot of effort went into this.”

Penzel has also begun demolition work inside of the historic courthouse in Jackson, which will house various county offices including the county commission, the county clerk, the treasurer, the auditor, human resources, the public administrator and the highway department.

The $7,712,717 historic courthouse construction project will include electrical work, a new HVAC system, elevator replacement and exterior repairs. The 1908 courthouse project is expected to be completed summer of 2024.

Phil Penzel, CEO of Penzel Construction, said it was an honor for Penzel Construction to be a part of these projects for the county. He said the work was personal.

“A few years ago there was a two-story white house that was demolished in order to make a parking lot for the county court here,” Penzel said. “That property has a lot of significance to me because my father Gene was born inside of that house and five generations of Penzels lived on that property.”

Penzel said his family purchased 101 acres in Jackson in the area where these projects are taking place when they came here from Germany around 170 years ago. “I am at a loss for words to describe it, but it’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of this,” he said.

Andy Pitts with TreanorHL Architects thanked the community for the opportunity to be a part of this endeavor and partner with Penzel Construction again. TreanorHL previously partnered with Penzel Construction on the new Cape Girardeau County Courthouse, which opened in 2020. “It’s our pleasure to be a part of this project and again have an impact on this community,” Pitts said.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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