Jail project moving forward with ballot vote

Marion County Commission Chairman Roger Fleming said he was pleased with voter turnout April 5, but added he was concerned that people don?t take the ?yes? vote for a new jail as an economic bust for the county or any individual city.

?(The commissioners) made the best decision based on what we had to work with,? he said.

?I think this was the best decision we could make to get things moving forward and also the least painful to everyone in Marion County.?

The final total in favor of using a half-cent sales tax to pay for a law enforcement facility was 1,704 to 969 or about 64 percent of the eligible voters who cast their ballot. According to information about Monday?s canvass, nine votes were disallowed.

More than eight years ago, Marion County Commissioners started looking into the possibility of building a new facility that would also house the emergency operations center, dispatch and a jail.

After voters defeated the proposed jail two years ago, the commissioners returned with a second jail proposal, scaling back the size and cost from $9 million to $3.5 million.

What?s next?

Following Monday?s canvass of votes by the commissioners, Fleming said the next step would be adopting a resolution to get a sales tax for the new facility started.

The half-cent increase is expected to go into effect July 1.

After the resolution is adopted by the commissioners, he said, the next phase is getting the resolution to the state.

?The state usually needs about 90 days (to process the resolution) and we will be 11 days shy, but we think we will still be able to get on by July 1,? Fleming said.

If the county were forced to wait, the tax would not go into effect until the next quarter.

?We would like to get that money coming in because there will be expenses before bonds are issued, but what those expenses are right now, I just don?t have the experience to know,? he said.

Once the resolution has gone to the state office initiating the sales tax, Fleming said the commissioners want to have a special meeting April 18.

?We want to set up a meeting with Treanor Architects, David Arteberry, the county?s bond counsel, and the sheriff so that we can get everything in line (for collecting the additional tax),? he said.

By having a special meeting, Fleming said, the commissioners will be able to devote all their time to this issue because it would be the only thing on the agenda.

?I want a special meeting with nothing else on our mind and no pressure to get done in an hour to develop our next step,? he said.

Fire marshal concerns

Prior to the jail?s passage by voters, the commissioners discussed what they might have to do if the state fire marshal shut down the current facility.

?As far as I know, since we have something in the works, we don?t expect anything to shut us down, but then again we don?t make their decisions,? Fleming said.

Breaking ground

Fleming said the only information he has right now is that the architects hope to break ground for the new jail in the fall.

The facility is expected to take 14 months for completion, but Fleming wasn?t sure if that was from the date of passage or from the groundbreaking.

?Until we have this special meeting, we don?t have all these details,? he said.

In addition, Fleming said the commissioners, sheriff and architects need to go over the plans and look down at each aspect of the jail and find out the type of heating system?all the details that haven?t been worked out yet.

?This was a footprint,? he said, ?none of the furniture, equipment, fixtures, although included in the $3.5 million vote, haven?t been worked out yet.?

The commissioners, he said, will look at all options to make the facility run as economically as possible.

?Without spending too much money to make that happen, we want a good pay back period before we invest a lot of money into a ?green system? so that by the time it?s paid back (the system) isn?t worn out,? he said.

Fleming said he and the other commissioners, Dan Holub and Randy Dallke, will also investigate a geo-thermal system, which is something they would consider if it were cost effective.

?Sheriff Rob Craft thought the county could also get some grants for the EOC and dispatch as far as making them safe in severe weather,? he said.

If the grants came through, Fleming said it was his understanding that this would go off the total price of the facility.

?My understanding when Andy (Pitts) kept talking about this, we talked about having secure places in our meeting. I have to assume that was already included or that a grant would pay the expenses,? he said.

Boarding other prisoners

The average number of prisoners this year has been 11, according to information at the jail meetings in late March.

Fleming said the county could consider hauling prisoners in, according to what Craft has said at previous meetings, but accepting other prisoners was not one of the main reasons for the jail.

?It was not a premise to pass (a new jail) and contract for prisoners out of county,? he said.

Currently the sheriff will reserve 20 beds for Marion County.

?If someone came in and said they needed some beds,? Fleming said, ?(the sheriff) would consider contracting with them, but it would be dependent on careful review of the type of prisoners he would accept.?

The commissioners plan to consider this as a possible option, if the opportunity would arises.

?I can?t see us going out and advertising for it,? he said.

Public input

According to Fleming, the public needs to let the commissioners know what they think.

?This is something that would be considered if it?s viable and economically favorable for the county,? he said.

Consequence of a ?no? vote

Fleming said he believes if the voters had swung the other way and voted ?no,? the result would be unknown.

?If this wouldn?t have passed, I honestly did not know what would be next,? he said.

Some people, Fleming said, thought there were other avenues that would have been fairer ways to build a jail.

The problem, he said, is that he didn?t see a jail being built for another four years if they had found that ?fairer way? because of the time it would take.

?First it would have to be taken to the legislatures to do something, then get into law, and then we would start the process all over in getting it to the voters,? Fleming said.

In order to get the information out to the voters as to why Marion County needed a new jail, Fleming said all three commissioners traveled to seven cities in two weeks.

Overall, he said, the turn out at the meetings was low, but Goessel and Florence had a good turnout.

?I was disappointed in the turn out, but maybe people weren?t aware of it (even with all the announcements),? he said.

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