Jail committee holds firm to finding facility solution

?Doing nothing? is not one of the options the 15-member committee agreed to when the Marion County Commissioners asked them to research a complex that could house a jail, emergency management offices and 911 dispatch center.

?After our first meeting as the new committee and touring the current jail facility,? one Marion County Public Safety and Law Enforcement Center Committee member said, ?the concensus was to abandon the jail, and remodeling it was not an option.?

That left only two other options for the committee. Either build a new facility to house all three?a jail, 911 dispatch and emergency management?or build a transfer station to house prisoners until they can be sent to another county jail, leaving the problem of what to do with the other two entities.

?We are not looking at a luxury building?it?s not about prisoners, but it is about the safety of our sheriff?s department, emergency management and 911 offices,? a committee member said at the fifth meeting held Thursday, June 11.

After hearing from a few taxpayers in the county, the committee members are uncertain whether residents understand the gravity of the situation.

?Even if voters don?t want to build a jail complex, we are still going to need a transport with four to six cells,? another member said.

While the committee has come up with what it believes is a fair financing plan of no more than $10 per household per month for a period of no more than 10 years, it had questions this time for county commissioners.

Under the committee?s special assessment tax scenario, $6.1 million could be raised for a new facility.

The rationale for the special assessment was unanimously agreed upon because it was considered the fairest way to disperse the expense.

?Each person has an equal need for 911 and emergency management,? a member said. ?This is not solely about building a jail, but as a county we must have that or a holding facility.?

The committee has come to consensus that paying about $10 a month per household is a fair price for the security of and safety for 911 and emergency management employees.

The jail portion of the project is necessary for the safety of staff as well, the committee emphasized.

Anyone who has toured the old jail knows there are problems with plumbing, safety and the claustrophobic surroundings Marion County people are forced to work in, another committee member said.

?Everyone should tour that jail complex,? a member said.

Yet committee members are also wanting to make sure they have all the facts when they talk with taxpayers about a plan.

For the fifth meeting, the committee said it was ready to ask the commissioners to join them.

?We want your opinions and questions,? said Commissioner Dan Holub after hearing from the committee members.

?I would like to see an election even on the special assessment question if that?s the direction the committee wants to go,? he said.

Committee members also want to know a lot more before they talk to their friends and neighbors about a new complex.

?We need to know operating costs now and what a new building would cost,? a member said.

Another person said the public needs to know that the special assessment is only one part of the expense.

?I am not going to talk with people about this unless (the committee has) a good idea of how much more in property tax it will cost to pay for utilities, staff and other incidentals,? a member said.

Holub and the other commissioners said they would begin looking at what the budget costs are now and future estimates.

The commissioners could begin pinning down some of the operational costs per square footage for electricity and gas.

Michelle Abbott, emergency management director, said there is also grant money available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a shelter facility, which would be part of the new structure.

?One of the biggest concerns we have right now is not knowing what the operational costs will be,? a member said.

The committee would also like to meet with architects regarding how large cells must be and what they can do to meet the needs expressed by the committee thus far.

In addition, a resident raised questions about the special assessment and what could be done if there was any leftover money after collecting the assessments.

The commissioners said they would contact the bond people and see if those questions could be answered in a face-to-face meeting with the committee.

?We want to thank all of you volunteering your time to be on this committee,? Holub said.

?Quite frankly, you have more credibility on this issue than we did,? he said.

Commissioners Bob Hein and Randy Dallke were also at the meeting and thanked the committee for their continued dedication to project.

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