A new jail and law enforcement center could be brought to a vote as soon as March. The new proposal will trim back the bed count and also be funded through local sales tax revenues, thus not raising property taxes.
John Hansen, president of Midwest Construction Consultants, presented some tentative plans to the Appanoose County Board of Supervisors during a special meeting Monday morning.
Hansen said he, architect Rick Weidner and county law enforcement officials had been mulling over six different potential sites. While official action is pending, and there’s more planning to be done, Hansen told supervisors the county-owned site on Dewey Road is believed to be the best option.
The goal has been to get the budget for a project in the neighborhood of $7 million. A project of that amount could be covered by the local option sales tax the county receives, and wouldn’t require separate approvals from other cities, supervisor chairman Mark Waits said.
Currently, local sales tax allocations for the unincorporated areas of the county are in effect until June 2023. A vote, however, could repeal those allocations and replace with an allocation going toward a jail and law center project. The unincorporated areas of Appanoose County are expected to draw about $7.5 million in revenue over the next 20 years.
Supervisors expect to present and approve ballot language to set a March election at their next meeting on Dec. 16.
By verbal consensus, supervisors signaled Hansen could go ahead with finalizing plans to present to the public and work with Sheriff Gary Anderson and Centerville Police Chief Tom Demry to do so.
The tentative proposal was for about 34 beds with expansion space available. Hansen said it would cover the needs of today and allow for expansion.
Hansen said the three major complaints he heard from citizens during the last jail vote, in 2017, was that it would be funded through a property tax increase, the bed count was too high and that it was to be built on a site the county would have had to purchase. This round’s proposal would address those three top concerns, Hansen said.
Earlier this year, supervisors considered creating a tax increment financing district tied to proposed wind turbines in eastern Appanoose County to fund the jail and potentially other projects. After the meeting Monday, Waits said the concern with this route was the years it would take before funding would begin trickling in from the wind project.
Appanoose County has seen its daily inmate counts in the 20s regularly with some spikes into the 30s and 40s.
Voters rejected the first proposal in 2016 by a stiff margin. In 2017, a second attempt was made with Hansen at the helm for a cheaper cost. Then the project received 52 percent support, but needed 60 percent to pass because it was a bond referendum. The local option sales tax route would only need a simple majority to approve.
The current law center was built in the 1970s but suffers from some significant problems with the structure, doesn’t have enough space to fit inmates being held by the county and is also behind on the latest safety standards, which has put jail staff at risk.