With the writing on the jail cell wall, the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors Tuesday talked about the urgency for a new jail and how to make that urgency known to the public.
Supervisor Jim Gustafson pointed to $5,900 that the county spent Tuesday for housing prisoners outside the county. That's necessary due to the current jail overcrowding and older, inefficient design that does not allow for prisoner classification. The Iowa Department of Corrections requires that females, juveniles, and the handicapped be separated from the general prison population. Other factors that may require separation of prisoners would be prisoners who might be particularly violent to others or who could be sexually active with members of the same sex.
The Board of Supervisors is mounting a public education effort to show the need for a new jail and how doing nothing and having to transport and house prisoners out of county is already costing the county almost as much as it could cost to pay for a new jail.
Supervisor Bill Lanphere said it would cost at least $500,000 to $1 million a year to made basic repairs to the jail. Even then, the county would still have to pay to house prisoners outside the county, said Sheriff Chuck Eddy.
"I don't think it's even feasible to fix that jail now," said Supervisor Jim Gustafson.
"It's close to a push to fix the old one or to build a new one," Lanphere said, in terms of the costs of remodeling the current jail. An estimate by architect Chris Shiltz 18 months ago pegged a cost of $5.3 million to remodel the existing Courthouse to make room for a 39-bed jail. However, parking is already overcrowded at the Courthouse, spilling over onto city streets for several blocks when court is in session.
In addition to the $278,521 cost last year for housing prisoners in other counties, Buena Vista county paid $107,000 on juvenile detention, Gustafson said. That cost could be substantially pared with the new county jail if juveniles could be held overnight before their initial court appearance rather than transporting them to the Youth Emergency Services Center in Cherokee. The yearly payoff for the new jail is estimated at $356,527.
County voters will go to the poll Nov. 8 to decide the $4.8-million jail bond issue that must pass by 60 percent.