New Jail Could Open in 2014

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By Joe Foreman, Editor

Construction of the Mills County Law Enforcement Center is expected to begin in the spring or early summer of 2013 and will take about one year to complete.

Mills County residents approved the $6.4 million facility in a special election Tuesday, Aug. 7, by a 987-441 (69-31 percent) margin. The Mills County Law Enforcement Center will replace the existing Mills County Jail and Sheriff’s Office, built in 1915. The new facility to be constructed in an industrial area at 500 Railroad Ave. in Glenwood, will house the sheriff's office and a 24-bed jail.

“It will be similar in size in to the new facility in Montgomery County so you’d expect a similar timeline,” Steve Riley, spokesperson for Omaha-based Prochaska and Associates architectural engineering firm said. “If you start building in June or July 2013, you’re probably looking at it being completed in the summer of 2014.”

Prochaska and Associates served as a consultant to Mills County during the bond issue process and will now assist with working out design and construction details. The next step, Riley said, will be to develop a schematic design for the building.

Prior to last week, the last time Mills County voters passed a major bond issue was in November 1957 for the construction of a new courthouse. The price tag on that bond issue was $285,000.

Mills County’s existing 13-bed jail doesn’t meet modern jail standards for inmate and public safety and is not ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliant. Grand juries have been recommending it be replaced since 1992. In October 2007, Mills County residents voted down a $6.9 million bond issue for a new jail and law enforcement center.

Mills County Sheriff Eugene Goos credits the efforts of the Mills County Law Enforcement Center Committee (made up of a cross section of citizens from the county) for educating residents this time around about the need for a new facility.

“I think it was explained really well to the people,” Goos said. “The people that came to the public meetings got the word out to their friends and I think the jail open house last month was huge.”

Barb Mass was a member of the committee. She said educating the public about the conditions of the existing jail and the possible consequences to the county if the facility doesn’t get replaced was a major goal of the group.

“We felt that our efforts to inform the public about the entire project was very important,” Mass said. "We had comments from those who attended our community meetings. They appreciated all the information. Of course, we think those who toured the jail realized how badly we needed a new one. The safety of the staff and public were important issues with everyone who toured.”

Ron Kohn, a member of the Mills County Board of Supervisors, is appreciative of the bond issue’s passage.

“I was very pleased that the citizens responded to the needs of the sheriff's office so well,” Kohn said. “The committee did a great job of providing accurate information. It’s somewhat challenging reaching out to the community. You just try to provide the best information possible.”

About 14 percent of all eligible voters in the county took part in the bond issue election. Passage required at least a 60-percent “yes” vote.