Bill Lanphere, vice chair of the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors and a Hy-Noon Kiwanian, told fellow Kiwanians about the need for a new county jail Monday.
County voters will decide Nov. 8 whether they want to foot the bill for a new $4.8-million jail. It's not that it isn't already costing taxpayers something now for doing nothing. The cost of hauling extra prisoners, beyond what the current jail can hold, costs county taxpayers $16.92 a year on a $100,000 house just to haul and house prisoners in jails in other counties. The cost of paying off a new jail over a 20-year period, meanwhile, would be $24.43 a year on that same $100,000 house, making a net cost of $7.51 a year over what the owner of that $100,000 house is already paying.
Lanphere said when the jail was built 37 or 38 years ago that it might need to hold two to three prisoners at any given time. The county currently has a waiver for 18 prisoners in a 24-hour bed plus another six prisoners for 16 hours.
"We're crowded," Lanphere said. "We're outsourcing people to other counties."
Even with Cherokee County, the closest jail where the county ships prisoners, it takes an average of three to three and a half hours in deputy time to haul prisoners.
"There's no youth figure," Lanphere added, noting that the cost would be the same in taking youth to the Youth Emergency Services Center in Cherokee.
Lanphere outlined a number of problems with the current jail. The sally port, which should be used strictly for inmate loading and unloading, is also used for inmate storage and a wire jail cell.
There is also no area for attorneys to meet with prisoners. "We have no place for the attorney to meet with the inmates," Lanphere said. Attorneys currently must meet with their clients in the recreation room.
Even if the county went ahead and did $500,000 in remodeling, the state would likely put a limit of the number of inmates that could be held to 12-14 inmates. He said it would cost $100,000 alone to install an air-exchange system. And then there are the ever-increasing inmate numbers "Our numbers are still spiraling," Lanphere said.
The new jail would include an electronic courtroom which could be used for preliminary hearings and so eliminate those transportation costs to the Courthouse. Inmates would still appear in person at the Courthouse for trial.
Lanphere addressed the issue of location. "There's nothing wrong with this location," Lanphere said. "It's completely surrounded by storage buildings or light industry."
Another added cost, if the Nov. 8 bond issue fails, would be that the county would have to outsource meal preparation.
Lanphere addressed a number of issues in the question-and-answer session that followed.
"They're (Iowa Department of Corrections) not going to close us down as a jail," Lanphere said. "But they can really squeeze us down."
Lanphere said it remains undetermined whether the communications center would be relocated to the new jail, depending on the amount of final construction figures. In any case, a lot of the space currently used for a jail will be used for storage.
Lanphere said as more property comes on the tax rolls, costs per taxpayer for property tax will likely go down.