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$625k to expand jail, BV looks to stimulus fund

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Just a year and a half since it was built and already overcrowded, plan are taking shape for a possible expansion of the Buena Vista County Jail.

Original construction manager John Hansen says the jail was built to allow for another tier of cells to be added if neccesary. He figures 28 more beds could be had at a cost of approximately $625,000, if the County decides to expand the jail in the future. The County submitted an application earlier this week for federal stimulus fund consideration. A jail expansion is part of the "wish list."

* County supervisors also approved a $9,500 bid to do some work on the jail heating system. Sheriff Gary Launderville says they are looking to put in some power vents in each cell which will force the warm air down and help keep the cells warmer and heating bills lower. Launderville feels an upgrade will pay for itself in heating costs in a year or two. The sheriff's department's most recent monthly heating bill was over $10,000.

Launderville said he will also ask Tessier's, Inc., who originally installed the system, to rebalance the entire system to meet code requirements. The County is hoping Tessier's will be able to do the work yet this winter. About $4,200 is left in the construction budget to potentially use for the work. Some of the money will also be used to purchase trees to plant at the sheriff's office.

* The County also improved increases in room and board rates charged to jail inmates. They go from $30 to $55 a day for county residents and $75 for federal inmates or out of county inmates. Work release room and board jumps from $30 to $55 plus a one time processing fee of $20 for County residents. The County also increased the in-home detention rate to $55/day with a $50 processing fee. Supervisor Don Altena questioned the increase for work release and in home detention individuals. "Are we going to take away the one incentive to go out tain their (work release) jobs?" asked Supervisor Don Altena.

Launderville says the fees for in-home detention are paid up front and are necessary for paying for the deputies' time. Altena abstained from the vote for the increased rates. Supervisor Dale Arends said although rates were expensive he felt it was time for inmates to realize the seriousness of their actions. "(Going to jail) is going to be inconvenient, it's going to be expensive." Launderville added that many of the work release inmates work overtime hours and are willing to pay whatever it takes in order to spend as little time in the jail as possible.

*Launderville says he also hopes to visit with the U.S. Marshall's office about the possibility of contracting out a cell for federal inmates. He says it's possible he could use a work release cell. Chairman Paul Merten said he felt looking into the possibility of housing federal inmates would be a good idea since the jail was built to house federal inmates and could be a good revenue stream. Launderville said he figured they could generate about $270,000 a year in revenue for housing federal inmates.

*The County also approved a request from Launderville to seek out two additional full-time jail staff. Currently he says his seven member part-time staff are working full-time hours to help with the work load but not receiving all the full-time benefits. He says two of his jailers are certified and another one, who is not certified, has expressed an interest in becoming full-time.

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