Tax to Fund New Jail, Sheriff's Facilities on LawCo Ballot, Nov. 2
From the Lawrence County Commission
When Lawrence County voters go to the polls Nov. 2, they’ll decide whether the time is right to construct a new jail/sheriff’s office, funded by a 3/8-cent sales tax. After construction bonds are paid off, 1/8-cent of the sales tax will be retired. It requires a simple majority to pass.
A town hall on the issue will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28, in the second floor courtroom of the Historic Courthouse.
While an earlier sales tax helps fund law enforcement operations, this one is for construction. A portion will be retained for maintenance and operations.
Four issues prompted the county commission to approach voters now:
- Taxpayers will be spending close to a half million dollars to house prisoners in other counties this year - money that could have gone toward jail savings or other public safety needs.
- The county has obtained an 8.52-acre building site from the City of Mt. Vernon for a token dollar, so long as it shows progress toward the construction within three years and breaks ground within five. Otherwise the land goes back to the city.
- The possibility of using a portion of federal American Recovery Act funds.
- It would likely cost more to build in the future.
To date, the county has saved $873,000 for the jail construction; and the building site is valued at over $120,000. Combined, those bring the county $1 million closer to a new jail/sheriff’s office. The sales tax is expected to generate roughly $1.2 million annually during the period it is at its full 3/8-cent level.
Jails are costly to build. Webster County recently completed a 116-bed jail, administrative space and courts facility for $18.6 million.
The amount of revenue available, combined with construction and operating costs, determine the size of the project. The county expects to be able to fund a 120-bed facility, which would more than double the capacity of the existing 52-bed jail. Total project cost could run $15-18 million.
It is working with a seasoned jail architectural firm, Elevatus Architects, to design a structure that can be more easily expanded as needs and finances allow. The building site should be able to accommodate two future 96-bed expansions.
The new construction should provide a safer, more secure environment; allow for staffing efficiencies in this difficult labor market; provide more pandemic-related safeguards; bring law enforcement services under one roof; and allow ample room for expansion.
It would be constructed within a new development area south of I-44 to be known as Mt. Vernon Commercial Park South. Initial access would be from Missouri Drive off the south outer road.
A 3/8-cent sales tax would add just over a third of a cent to the cost of a dollar candy bar. For $20 worth of supplies at a store, it would add seven and a half cents.
An information sheet on the project can be found at www.lawrencecountymo.org.
Voters may cast absentee ballots in person at the county clerk’s office at the Historic Courthouse from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 30. Last day to vote absentee in person is Monday, Nov. 1. On election day Tuesday, Nov. 2, polls will be open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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