Fulton Commissioners said the 30-year-old jail is falling apart, with prisoners using the pieces as weapons. (File photo)

The Fulton Board of Commissioners passed a resolution at its Aug. 2 meeting asking the county manager and staff to proceed with planning and seeking ways to finance a new Fulton County Jail.

The resolution did not approve building a new jail – expected to cost more than $1 billion – but only having staff figure out ways to fund its design, construction, and ongoing maintenance.

Commissioner Bob Ellis, whose district includes part of Sandy Springs, said the commission had to get to a point of clarity about what it intends to do.

“We’ve had feasibility studies. We’ve talked around this issue. Are we going to build this thing or not?” he asked. “We understand the ramifications of the fact that we’ve got 3,600 people sitting in prison right now and we don’t have adequate facilities to house.”

Ellis said the board would have to explore a sales tax to offset costs, as well as determine if existing property taxes could be redirected to fund the project. He also said the board needs to look at spending reductions and talk to the state about funding.

“I will tell you right now from this commissioner’s perspective, I am not going to support any type of situation where the funding is going to come from an increase in the millage rate,” Ellis said.

A resolution to establish a dedicated reserve fund for the planning, design, and construction costs related to a new jail was put on hold by the commissioners with no vote taken.

The resolution comes on the same day as the commission approved a $4 million settlement with the family of Lashawn Thompson, 36, who was found dead and covered in bed bugs at the jail last September.

The commission voted 6-0 to approve the settlement following a closed-door executive session.

Thompson’s death, which the county coroner said was due to neglect, has led to an investigation into conditions at the jail by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Attorneys Ben Crump and Michael D. Harper, who represent Thompson’s family, issued a statement after the settlement was made.

“While we are satisfied to reach settlements in these matters with Fulton County and unidentified entities for undisclosed amounts, we are nowhere near the end of this journey to full justice. We will continue to work with the Thompson family –– and the community that rallied behind them –– to ensure that a tragedy like this one never happens to another family or takes one more life,” the attorneys said in their statement.

“Lashawn’s life mattered, and together, we can demand and motivate significant change in his name. That will be the legacy of Lashawn Thompson,” the statement said.

Collin Kelley contributed to this report.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.