Jail group focuses on two options

The Public Safety and Law Enforcement Committee members narrowed their options to two during their June 16 meeting.

Either build a new complex to house 911 dispatch, emergency preparedness and a 26-bed jail, or build a four- to six-bed transfer station to hold prisoners until other arrangements are made.

The latter option does not take into consideration the two other public safety departments, which are currently in the old jail complex next to the Marion County Courthouse.

?As a committee, our job is to come up with the best option and present that to the commissioners,? one member said. ?This isn?t like building a pool, this (new safety, law enforcement complex) is a necessity.?

As letters from the public continue making their way to the committee, some members are questioning whether people even understand what the group is trying to do.

The committee debated whether the issue of building a new facility should go to a vote even though a special assessment wouldn?t require it.

?I have mixed emotions about this,? one member said. ?We need to make a decision fast and then find out what the pulse of the public is.?

The idea, he said, would be to get 200 people together, explain what the committee has decided to do and ask for the public?s input.

?Then and only then will I make a decision (one way or the other),? he said. ?If we want to pass this, it will be done without ramming the idea down a person?s throat.?

Another member said it was like driving a car to work.

?One day the car doesn?t work anymore, so you buy a new one and that?s where we are with the jail,? he said.

Yet one member said the facility plan is similar to maintaining streets.

?When the city needs to fix streets, it has to be done so they just do it,? the member said.

?Part of our job is having a new plan? another member said, ?and educating the public as to why we need it.?

The majority of the committee agreed they want to see costs for building a transfer station, transporting prisoners, and adding more personnel.

In addition, the group wants costs estimates for operating the old jail and for a new facility.

?Until we get this information, we have no idea how much it would take to run a new facility.?

One member thought it was premature to vote for a new complex vs. the transfer facility.

?If I need to vote now, I would vote yes for a new complex, but I still want to see costs and how much the people of Marion County are being charged,? he said.

?I think based on the strength of these letters (from the public), we are not as far down the road, with or without a vote, as we thought,? a member said.

The 15-member board, which includes the three alternates, is unanimous about financing a project using a special assessment, but is still waiting for the commissioners to provide budget line items for the jail/complex only.

?Once we have the operating costs, it will be nearer to the point that we must all be on the same page with this complex,? a member said.

Before the next meeting, scheduled Tuesday, July 7, in Hillsboro, the committee has requested estimates for transporting prisoners, ideas on pursuing other architects and setting up a trip to Garnett to see it?s new $5.5 million jail complex.

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