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The Douglas County Commissioners and Sheriff Chris Degase have scheduled a Town Hall Meeting for tonight (Thursday) at 6:30 p.m. in the Ava Community Center, to review and discuss plans for a new County Justice Center and Jail.
Notice of the meeting was only made public on Tuesday of this week.
Elected officials, project committee members, architects and engineers will be available to present updated concepts, budgets and answer questions about the proposed project.
The current Douglas County Jail has 21 beds and is located in the same building as the Sheriff’s Office. The new jail will comply with federal standards and will replace the current outdated jail.
The county’s bed shortage currently results in the county being forced to house an average of three inmates per month at a cost of $1,350 each per month in other county jails, costing Douglas County in excess of $4,000 per month on average.
Ironically, not only does Douglas County have insufficient room for its own inmates, but the county has to turn away 8-10 inmates from other counties at $1,350 each, potentially losing revenue of $13,500 per month that would be a revenue source for the county to help offset the cost of its own inmates.
The county will save money by not paying other jurisdictions to board our inmates; at the same time Douglas County can collect revenue from other jurisdictions, and create a substantial revenue/expense “swing.”
This project will create more employment opportunities for the community, not only when the new facility opens, but during the construction phase as well. It is estimated that building a new jail employs over 200 workers during the 12-14 month construction period. Once the new facility is completed, at least 15 jobs will be permanently created as jailers, cooks, supervisors and support personnel.
A proposed Justice Center with the jail, control room and dispatch center in the lower level, and the courtrooms, judicial offices and the Sheriff’s Office on the top floor will take advantage of the sloping site proposed for the project near the courthouse.
The plan initially includes a 40-48 bed jail, courthouse, judicial offices and the new dispatch center.
The county board has retained the services of Goldberg, Sullivan & McCrerey (GSM), one of the nation’s leading correctional planners, to assist Douglas County in determining:
• What kind/size jail should be built for optimal long-term benefits?
• How will the new facility be staffed and operated most efficiently and safely?
• How will the proposed project be most cost effectively funded and paid for?
Local jurisdictions can fund their Criminal Justice Projects with new law enforcement taxes and funds re-captured and re-allocated from the housing of inmates. The county’s planning team will study these options and develop scenarios for county officials and the Douglas County community to consider over the next several months. Analysis indicates that the project can be supported by a ½-cent sales tax to be used for constructing the facility, and an additional ½-cent sales tax for staffing and operations. Each ½-cent tax is projected to generate about $450,000.
Timing is crucial! At present, interest rates are exceptionally low and construction prices are extremely competitive. These factors will decrease debt service payments and construction costs – all at a time when Douglas County needs a new jail.