New jail committee chair asks for public patience for research

The new chairman of the citizen advisory group appointed to study and recommend a plan addressing the current jail facility, is asking Marion County taxpayers to ?be patient,? while members continue to review all the options.

Mike Kleiber, who succeeded Danny Flynn as chairman at the Nov. 11 meeting, said the Marion County Public Safety and Law Enforcement Center Committee is looking at all aspects, ranging from transferring prisoners out of county to building a new facility and looking at financing options for a new or existing structure.

?Most of the committee members are strongly against sales tax or property tax as a financing option,? Kleiber said.

The committee?s recommended financing method for a new facility would be a special assessment tax of $10 or less per month for 10 years or less. Although the county would need to assess property taxes to operate the facility, most committee members said it would still be less in the long run.

The reason the committee favors the special assessment is because this type of tax will eventually go away?unlike a property tax, which rarely goes away once it?s implemented, Kleiber said.

The committee, he said, is also considering two architectural firms to include HMN Architects Inc. of Overland Park or Treanor Architects of Topeka to come up with drawings and costs for a minimum 26-bed facility.

At its last meeting, though, the committee decided to further review the costs to transfer prisoners out of county, he said.

Kleiber and three other committee members will be meeting with Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft about those expenses sometime this month.

?The committee thinks that if we are to make a thorough recommendation to the commissioners, we need to look at any and all alternatives to building a new jail complex,? he said.

When the sub-committee does meet with the sheriff, members will be asking both short and long-term costs of transporting and housing prisoners, realizing there would still need to be a holding facility for arrests, processing and court appearances.

Another area that needs further scrutiny is whether the current jail could be renovated or if that option would be cost prohibitive.

If the committee were to recommend building a new facility, the sheriff would also need to look at operating costs.

?To determine the true costs to operate a new facility, commissioners need to build into the county?s budget the cost of staffing the current facility adequately,? Kleiber said.

The way the committee understands it, the county?s budget is not broken down well enough to get a true picture as to the costs associated with the sole operation of the jail apart from the sheriff?s department and emergency management.

?The committee believes the cost of operating the existing facility verses the cost of operation in a new facility needs to be better researched,? Kleiber said. ?It will be a major topic taxpayers of Marion County will need to know and understand prior to voting on a new facility.?

Once the committee has reviewed all the choices, then it will make recommendations to the commissioners.

?The committee?s goal is that any recommendations it makes will be supported unanimously among the members,? he said. ?This (the jail complex) is a big issue and we want the public?s input and we also are asking for their patience.?

Until the sub-committee meets with the sheriff, the next committee meeting has not yet been scheduled.

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