Committee finding consensus on jail

The citizen planning committee was chosen to represent a diversity of views about the future of a jail in Marion County. But after Thursday?s meeting in Hillsboro, the group seems united in its outlook.

The idea of building a new jail, and the fairest way to pay for it, became the two biggest issues after less than one month of meetings?and a consensus was reached.

With so many questions and options left on the table from the first and second meetings, the committee started narrowing the choices, which range from building a new jail, to renovating the old one, to transferring prisoners out-of-county.

?We?ve got to quit cutting bait and start fishing,? one member said.

Additional talk about money, jail size, personnel or other issues is like ?putting the cart before the horse.?

The first job must be to agree how the money will be raised and what the basic needs are for housing prisoners for the next 20 to 30 years.

?I cannot support property and sales tax, but I can support funding the jail on a per household tax,? the committee member said. ?Landowners and businesses (such as car dealers) must be left alone.?

Based on information available to them, the group voted unanimously to further study building a new jail complex and paying for it using a per household tax.

Using a baseline of $120 ($10 per month), the idea would be that each of the 5,900 resident homes on the tax rolls could pay for a total yearly collection of $660,000.

With a ?sundown clause,? the financial burden would end in less than 10 years.

?This would not include operational costs, just the building,? one member said.

It would also solve the sales-tax concerns that resulted in the jail project failing to meet the voter?s approval in November.

The group also decided the new law-enforcement center would not be a ?Taj Mahal,? as some voters said about the previous $8.6 million architectural design.

Members asked Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft what was the minimum amount of beds he needed. Craft told the committee a 26-bed could get him by, but it would not be the best scenario for the long-term.

Craft said there are five types of prisoners and some must be segregated.

?Those are prisoners with medical needs, women, prisoners who cannot get along with others, trustees and general population types,? he said.

A majority of committee members voted to study a 40-bed law enforcement center, which would also include 911 dispatch, emergency preparedness and the sheriff?s offices.

Danny Flynn, chairman and an alternate, non-voting member, said none of the information at this point is fine.

?It (decision) is a stepping stone and the facility size could end up so much more or so much less,? he said.

With less than six months to finish their work, the committee is building on their decision to finance the jail with a per household tax of no more than $10 a month for 10 years and a new jail no bigger than 40 beds.

?We are not concerned about prisoners outside of our county, so there is no reason to waste our time on that issue,? one member said.

The committee doesn?t want to get into the ?hauling prisoner business,? or depending on the revenue from it, but was planning to have Craft check into it.

At the next jail meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 1, in Hillsboro, the group will look at budget numbers and splitting out the various costs in running the sheriff?s office, emergency preparedness, costs for transporting prisoners and a further review of building schematics.

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