Tuesday, March 12, 2013
The Reno County Sheriff is making his final push for a new jail.
Voters in Reno County will decide April 2 whether to approve a half-percent sales tax increase to fund a new $28 million dollar jail and law enforcement center.
Sheriff Randy Henderson told a crowd of about 35 gathered for a town hall meeting Tuesday night the county needs to replace an outdated and overcrowded jail. He also said the county is spending too much money to house inmates out of county.
It costs $35 dollars per inmate per day to house Reno County inmates in Ford, Butler and Chase Counties, Henderson said.
"In 2012, we spent $400,000," he said. "Plus our jail transport people put 315,000 miles on the road."
That money leaving Reno County is just one of the reasons Henderson and County Commissioners are asking the public to fund construction of a new jail. He said the current one is too old, is too crowded, is not up to federal standards and does not provide room for programs aimed at helping people to avoid becoming repeat offenders.
"Another current issue we have in our jail: When we have numerous defendants on the same case, we can't house them in the same jail." Henderson said. "They can talk to each other through the air vents."
Reno County Voters have rejected new jail proposals before, but some have changed their minds.
"We're going to have a new jail regardless," said Hutchinson resident Garry Devault. "I'm glad to see them go with the sales tax instead of the property tax. Let the people who are going to use it help pay for it."
Devault also said the issue will likely continue to come before voters until it passes and he said the cost will only increase.
However, not everybody is sold on the proposal. Some say it does not do enough to address the county's long-term needs.
"In 10 years, they're going to have to do it again," said Mike Ward of Hutchinson. "Why not double that; double the jail and take 20 years to pay for it instead of 10?"
A county commissioner said if the county does not complete this project on its own, it is likely to face a much more costly federal lawsuit.
"This plan is developed by local people to solve local needs," Commissioner Dan Deming said. "We all know if the federal government gets involved, it's going to cost us more and it won't really be tailored to our local needs."
Early voting begins March 19. Henderson encourages voters to tour the jail before casting their ballots.