Written by John Plestina
The board of county commissioners said Monday, June 16, that the unsuccessful public safety bonding measure that would have funded a replacement for the aging Roosevelt County jail will reappear on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
The bonding issue failed at the polls Tuesday, June 3, after receiving 57.93 percent [986-716] of the votes cast because it did not receive a minimum of 60 percent, a state requirement when voter turnout is between 30 and 40 percent of registered voters. The voter turnout was 34.88 percent.
The county commissioners have clarified that they were incorrect by previously saying a minimum of 35 percent of registered voters must cast ballots for passage.
“Without a doubt, we will run it again,” commissioner Gary Macdonald said.
He said one problem he saw with the language on the primary election ballot was that it did not explain the cost of the new jail to voters.
Instead, Macdonald said, “We went out and explained to them what it would cost [at several public meetings]. It wasn’t on the ballot.”
The bonding measure asked voters to authorize the commissioners to issue and sell $11.86 million in general obligation bonds to be repaid within 20 years with an estimated annual fixed interest rate of 10 percent.
If the June 3 bonding measure had passed, the costs to taxpayers for construction-related costs would have been $46.06 per year for residential properties valued at $100,000 and $11.18 annually for operational expenses.
Macdonald said the commission will hold public hearings earlier than during the month leading up to the election, which is what was done before the primary election.
“We might have to do evenings,” he said.
“[Previous meetings prior to the election were] in the middle of seeding and farmers aren’t going to come out during seeding,” commissioner Jim Shanks said.
With the bonding measure not approved June 3, the county is at risk of being forced to close the aging jail because of potential liability and the cost to the taxpayers could be substantially higher than a mill levy increase that would be necessary to fund construction and operational costs.
All three commissioners said they are expecting a larger voter turnout for the general election.
The commissioners must file with the county clerk’s office for a new jail bond measure no later than Aug. 11.
The proposal is to remodel the existing sheriff’s office and jail facility behind the Roosevelt County Courthouse with an addition, a less expensive option than building a completely new facility at a different site because it would reduce construction expenses and eliminate site acquisition costs. It would also retain the jail in close proximity to courtrooms, minimizing transportation costs
The addition would provide a 60-bed jail that would be compliant with all standards.
The bonding includes the costs of designing, building, equipping and furnishing the jail and office space for the sheriff’s office that would be included. The proposed facility would include an “eyes-on” master control center, booking area, medical isolation area and several Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant cells. An E-911 communications center would be included in the facility.
The larger jail could generate revenue by accepting inmates from other counties and would be large enough to handle a much higher volume of local offenders as increases in crime are projected.
The current 17-bed jail has a rated jail capacity, per state standards, of only 11 beds. The jail averaged 15 inmates per day in 2012, with occasional peaks as high as 20.