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A town hall meeting to discuss Douglas County’s proposed new justice center and jail will be held tonight at the courthouse, and Sheriff Chris Degase said he would especially like to see a number of local contractors in attendance.
The meeting will be held in the circuit court room on the top floor of the courthouse, beginning at 6 o’clock.
Elected officials, project committee members, architects and engineers will be available to present updated concepts and budgets, and to answer questions about the proposed project.
The planning committee is asking any contractors, Planning Zoning Commission, and utilities representatives to please attend the meeting so they can answer any question they might have about the proposed justice center.
The County Commission 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?
A proposed justice center with the jail, control room and dispatch center in the lower level, and the courtrooms, judicial offices and the Sheriffs 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 dispatch center.
The current Douglas County Jail has 21 beds and is located in the same building as the Sheriffs Office.
The new jail would comply with federal standards and would replace the current, outdated jail.
Sheriff Degase says the county’s bed shortage currently results in the county being forced to house an average of three inmates per month, at $1,350 each, 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 eight to 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.
With a new, updated jail, Douglas County could save money by not paying other jurisdictions to board its inmates, and Douglas County could 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 would be permanently created as jailers, cooks, supervisors and support personnel.
Local jurisdictions can fund their criminal justice projects with new law enforcement taxes and funds recaptured and reallocated 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, says the planning committee. At present, interest rates are exceptionally low and construction prices are extremely competitive. These factors will decrease debt service payments and construction costs.