A Letter in the March 7 Tomahawk Leader:
In early March your county board will debate the various solutions to the county’s space needs.
The following is researched facts we need to evaluate to reach a decision best for the county.
Prisoners have been housed in surrounding county’s jails to avoid building a jail. At the onset we housed an average of six prisoners per day out of county. In 2005 the average was 16. Averages for January and February 2006 were 32 and 28, respectively. Cost of outside housing for 2005 was $323,494. This does not include transportation costs, mileage, vehicle maintenance, officers’ wages, etc. It is hard to determine an exact figure on transport but I suspect $50,000 or more.
Deciding which prisoners can be housed out of county is a problem. Only the better prisoners can be housed elsewhere, bad actors and medical problem prisoners stay in Lincoln County. Prisoners are transported back to Lincoln County for court appearances. Our jail will legally house 45 prisoners. I am told it cost $55 per day here. Outside housing costs $48 not including transport, officer wages, etc. Juvenile housing is $135 per day outside of county. We are not able to hold juveniles in our jail.
In an advisory referendum question on April 6, 1999, “Shall the county of Lincoln locate its new justice center at the following location” three choices followed. Pine Crest area, Lincoln School site and as an addition to the current jail. Voters favored current jail site by five to one margin. Justice center means a court facility and jail adjacent to one another.
If built this would allow all prisoners to be housed in Lincoln County. No more transport of prisoners to and from other counties. No more transport of prisoners across the street by vehicle for court appearances. No more court security issues.
Figures show a justice center could be built using the current jail with addition/remodel, reasonable size pod and a court facility for $8-10 million, depending on the size of pod.
For many years court security in the historic courthouse has been an unsolvable problem. A justice center would solve it!
Plus if courts move out of the historic courthouse, 22 offices will be available for other use. The second floor courtroom and the supervisor’s room will be left intact. No remodel, no changes.
The 22 offices along with continued use of the annex will provide more than enough office space and with no additional cost to the county. No need to build a $6 million administration/office building! Interest alone on $6 million at 5 percent is $300,000 per year. Heat, electricity, telephone and general maintenance on the annex and courthouse is about $65,000 per year for both. There would be utility and maintenance cost for a new building also.
These questions deserve consideration:
•Do you want to spend $6 million on a new office building?
•How important is it to consolidate land services offices and finance?
•Do you want to continue transporting prisoners and housing them outside county?
•Do you feel a need to support jobs here in Lincoln County? (Jobs are supported elsewhere with prisoner outside housing.)
•Do you feel the historic courthouse should be left as is? No remodel. No addition.
•Do you feel the county board should abide by the 1999 referendum?
•Do you feel the county board should solve court security and jail space needs first and foremost?
Please contact your county supervisor – make your feelings known.
David J. Fox
Supervisor District 19
Lincoln County Board