Sunday, May 20, 2007

The politics of getting a new jail

Here in the home county of The South of Iowa, there is debate/discussion about the need, location, and ability to finance the building of a new jail at around $10 million. Our current jail is small, outdated, and cannot hold both male and female prisoners, due to lack of separation and facilities. Female prisoners are oftentimes sent to other facilities, such as Centerville or into Missouri.

Our sheriff has been the main cheerleader for a new facility, and I can't blame him - he, his deputies, and his staff are the ones dealing with the old facility everyday.

However, part of the concern about building a new facility is how to finance it. One form of financing could come from a 1 cent local option sales tax increase, which is not setting terribly well with some.

While I'm not excited about paying more sales taxes, its better than taking it out of property taxes. Almost every other county/city in the state has taken advantage of the LOST, why not us?

Another way to finance the project is to sell the land of the county farm. That's right folks, we still have/had a county farm for the poor and indiginent. At last count, there were only 2-4 clients, with a staff of nearly double that. The land surrounding the house was rented out every two years and was not being used by the clients to further themselves (as they did in the old days).

Recently, the house/acreage was sold at auction, but the sale of the farmland is still in limbo, due to one of the three supervisors. This land sale could generate $500,000 or so. Why not sell it while the market is peaking?

This same supervisor is also against building the jail in a new, more accessable location. The current facility is diagonal from the courthouse; not a bad location, but it is practically in someone's back yard. The proposal is to build the new jail north of town along a state highway. I'm not sure why the supervisor is so set on building in the same location. What would you do with the prisoners while you destroy the old and build new? Just because "that's where the jail has always been," doesn't mean that's where it should be, right?

So, while I am not excited about paying more in sales taxes, I think it is the right thing to build a new jail north of town, rather than not doing anything at all and keep on paying deputies to transport prisoners instead of being out enforcing the peace.


Blogger Cathy said...

Another approach is to look at why the people are in jail. For some crimes such as pot the solution is more expesnive than the crime is dangerous.

7:43 AM, May 28, 2007  

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