Jail Bond Issue Vote Aug. 7

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By Joe Foreman, Editor

   Next Tuesday, Aug. 7, voters will decide the fate of a $6.4 million bond issue for the construction of a Mills County Law Enforcement Center being proposed to house the Mills County Sheriff’s Office and a 24-bed jail. The facility would be located on Railroad Ave. in Glenwood, replacing the county’s current jail that was built in 1915.
    Members of the Mills County Law Enforcement Center Committee, a group made up of citizens from across the county, have been promoting the project through an on-going public awareness campaign and a series of community meetings. Committee members have stressed throughout the process that not building a new facility could cost the county more than $6.4 million in the long run.
    The county’s existing 14-bed jail does not meet current standards and is not ADA compliant. Grand juries have been recommending  it be replaced for two decades. The county is unable to house juvenile or female inmates at the facility and projects to spend nearly $10.7 million in housing and transportation costs over the next 20 years if the bond issue fails.
    If the existing jail is closed, county supervisor Ron Kohn said the county would have to construct a new sheriff’s office with a “hold and transport” facility that would house inmates when an arrest is made locally. The construction cost of that project is estimated at $3.2 million.
    As for operational costs, the county spent $659,540 running the sheriff’s office and jail during the 2011 fiscal year with no revenue. Projections call the operational costs at the new facility being proposed to be $1,098,955 in 2015 and revenue for housing inmates from other counties at $168,630, generating a net operational budget of $930,325.
    If the 20-year bond issue is passed Tuesday by voters, the impact on property tax payers would be about 51 cents per $1,000 taxable valuation. For agricultural purposes, the average ag land assessed value is $1,637 per acre.
    Polls will be open Tuesday at regular voting sites across the county from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.
    Additional information about the bond issue election is available on Mills County’s website and at the county auditor’s office in Glenwood.