Citizen committee to forge next jail plan

The Marion County Board of Commissioners determined Monday, together with Sheriff Rob Craft, to appoint a county-wide committee to develop plans for a facility to house a county jail, sheriff?s office and communication center.

The committee would complete its work in time so a plan could be put on the November 2010 general election ballot for voter approval, if needed.

A vote for bond approval to build a new jail failed to pass in last fall?s general election. That proposal would have generated income by housing prisoners from other counties or government units along with local prisoners.

The commissioners agreed with Craft?s plan to recruit committee members until the end of March, to put the committee together in April from among those who volunteer, and to begin planning in May.

Craft asked that persons who would like to volunteer to be on the committee call the sheriff?s office at 620-382-2144. Craft said citizens could also contact the county clerk?s office or individual commissioners to volunteer.

Craft and the commissioners said the request for volunteers will be advertised in all local newspapers.

Commissioners Bob Hein, Randy Dallke and Dan Holub all said they would like to be on the committee.

With the three of them serving, Hein said the number of volunteers should be limited to nine to 12 to keep the committee effective.

Hein also said a suggestion from Craft to have sub-committees for specific parts of the planning could be good ?to have all the bases covered.? Hein said he already has had persons from his district, which includes Hillsboro, who say they would like to be on the committee.

Hein predicted that as jail needs become more evident, another year could change in public perception and acceptance of the need for a facility.

Craft said trying to have a question at the next eligible voting time in April would not give enough time for planning.

Holub said the main issues to be considered by the committee would be the type of facility needed, its size, and how it will be financed?whether by bonds based on property tax or sales tax.

Craft said the current jail has housed an average of 14 or 15 prisoners since he took office in January, although Monday it was down to 10.

He said the committee will need to determine whether it recommends getting along with a minimal facility that can handle 20 prisoners, or if it wants to anticipate projected needs into the future with a 40-prisoner facility.

The committee also will have to consider space needs for such things as separation of the sexes, and whether sex predators need to be isolated, Craft said.

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