While Pulaski County Commissioners won’t be making a decision anytime soon, the trio is considering the possibility of a new county jail.
The matter came before the commission this week (March 22), when representatives from Goldberg, Sullivan and McCrerey, a St. Joseph-based architecture firm, presented the initial jail feasibility study.
“Can Pulaski County capture or recapture enough resources to make the construction or reconstruction of a new law enforcement center without a tax increase?”?architect Larry Goldberg questioned.
According to him, the answer is yes.
“This is something we need, but we’re not going to be raising taxes,”?Presiding Commissioner Don McCulloch told Goldberg during the presentation.
Goldberg outlined several plans to the commission that could potentially pay for the cost of a new facility without raising taxes. One of those methods includes using stimulus funding.
The cost of a new 124 bed-facility is estimated at almost $10 million, and while the price tag on the new facility is high, what concerned commissioners was the cost of keeping it maintained and having funds to hire the needed staff.
Commissioners asked Goldberg and his associates to go back to the drawing board and scale down the size of the proposed jail to between 70-90 beds.
Sheriff J.B. King, who was present at the meeting, agreed a smaller facility with the ability to expand later could meet the county’s needs and help reduce the increase in staffing that would be required with a larger facility.
“Staffing is a major problem for any proposed project like this,”?King said.
New jail plans call for one jail administrator, 16 jailers, a cook and a part-time person for administrative work. The current jail operates with just 10 jailers and one transport officer, and five of those jailer positions are being paid for by a grant.
“That’s just part of the thing,”?Western District Commissioner Rick Zweerink said, referring to the construction cost. “The staffing thing scares me.”?
Commissioners also requested the firm come back with more solid figures for how the county would make the payments for a new facility.
“This is something I’d like to see, but we still have to answer to the taxpayers,”?McCulloch said.
The current proposal includes paying for the cost of a new facility in part from the savings the county will realize by not having to house prisoners in other county jails.
“I think we have to think of the future,”?Eastern District Commissioner Bill Farnham said. “We have to be ready for it.”