County commissioners hear more on building jail

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The Marion County Commission Monday met with consultants working on the possibility of building a new county jail that would include pay-for-stay prisoners from other areas, but determined that decisions will await cost figures and final design.

The commissioners, Sheriff Lee Becker, jailer Gary Klose and possibly other officials will journey to Colorado in October to take part in an educational session on internment facilities led by Jim Robertson of VRJS consultants.

Robertson and Dan Hall of BG consultants in Manhattan reviewed the survey they have made for possible facilities. The choice for size seemed to continue to be a 48-bed confinement center, although the commissioners could choose to begin with a 24-bed one.

Of other jails that take outside prisoners in the area, the participants reported Greenwood County with 28 beds at full, Rice County with 72 beds at 65 to 69 prisoners, Harvey County with 132 beds at 100 prisoners, Butler County at 220 beds at full, Chase County at 148 beds at full, Lyon County with 150 beds at 149 prisoners, and McPherson County, which houses only its own prisoners, with 56 beds at full.

Judge Michael Powers and County Attorney Susan Robson offered inputs on their needs if a new jail is built. Robson would like a new attorney’s office included.

Powers said sheriff’s officers need to be close to court facilities to respond if a panic button is pushed or a call goes out for an officer because somebody in court is becoming unruly.

He confirmed that uncontested court appearances by prisoners can be done by video from the jail.

Becker suggested that offices could be retained in the old jail to insure officers close are at hand.

Robertson said commissioners will need to consider capital investment in a jail and the cost of on-going operations with the latter requiring the higher costs over the long run.

The commissioners approved publishing a new 2006 budget that with the addition of two mills revises road and bridge spending for road projects upward from $951,000 to $1,478,000.

They authorized County Clerk Carol Maggard to upgrade Internet service to handle the increasing number of county workers logging on at a cost that may run around $3,000 contributed by multiple departments.

Commissioner Dan Holub said discussions with the County Planning Commission members have shown that officials looking at ways to allow rural housing on smaller acreage “aren’t that far apart.” He believed progress will be made soon.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said there are families who are awaiting putting a home on small acreage for returning children until the county has made a decision.

County Noxious Weed Director Bill Smithhart said he has been directed by the state not to spray ditches within three miles of cotton fields grown in the southern part of the county.

Holub asked Smithhart to check with the state on how herbicide spraying practices by farmers on other crops near where cotton is grown might be affected in order that producers of all crops are treated fairly.

Road and Bridge Supervisor Jim Herzet said he has a chance to buy 1,000 tons of cold mix for patching county roads from APAC of Wichita for $36 a ton with county trucks doing the hauling in approximately 40 loads.

The price is a $6-a-ton increase over last year, but commissioners authorized him to do so with Chairman Bob Hein adding, “You’d better lock it in before prices go up.”

Herzet said areas targeted for patching include in the Peabody area, the Roxbury Road, roads coming into Tampa and areas where preparations are needed for eventual resurfacing.

Herzet and the commissioners also discussed patching on Sunflower Road, grinding down lips on holes patched, and possible correction of a railroad crossing west of Peabody that has worn to slow traffic.

Noreen Weems, elderly department director, said the Marion Senior Center will host the annual Senior Citizens of Marion County meeting Oct. 20.

Weems was to offer special help Thursday at Marion to senior citizens trying to understand new Medicare prescription drug programs, and she said she is available for further help.

The commissioners approved the park department accepting a $200 bid for a surplus Ford truck.

Linda Ogden of Communities in Schools presented a video and program on juvenile drinking of alcoholic beverages to both the county commissioners and the Marion City Commission.

For fuller coverage of her presentation see the City Commission report in this issue of the Free Press.

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