Regarding the Special Jail Committee

Nick Smiar 

Regarding the recommendation of the Special Committee to assess site needs for a new jail, which is to site the new jail on the current county campus ... The committee did not exercise due diligence; it picked the expedient, political alternative. It was not until its eleventh meeting that the committee even considered off-campus sites, and that consideration lasted for one more meeting.  Sites were summarily dismissed because they were "not large enough" to accommodate the projected building. Between 15 and 20 acres would be necessary, we were told. Yet, the recommendation is to place the same building on a site, which, in total, is 11.93 acres, one third of which is currently occupied by buildings and there was discussion of building a new courthouse on the same site. The site is simply too small for even the proposed jail building, and definitely too small for the projected growth of the complex. We have not even seen architect's renderings/floor plans of possible building configurations either on-campus or off-campus. The recommended site would require the closing and re-routing of Second Avenue, which would include all of the infrastructure (sewer and water lines, electrical lines, etc.) as well as the asphalt and sidewalks. Is this really what the city and the county want to be doing? The county has already spent $2.1 million in property acquisitions, for seven parcels of land (about $300,000 per lot!). It's time to take this off campus and plan for the creation of a Justice Center (courthouse, jail, and associated functions) at a site that can accommodate such a complex and take advantage of cost savings in energy-efficient construction. The city, county, and school board are already discussing intergovernmental cooperation and the possibility of co-locating these governmental offices. Why not use the current complex and use the revenue to offset the construction of a Justice Center? I think that, once again, the citizens are being "hosed." The message will now be that "we have been transparent and have taken citizen input." Have they?