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Tax Increase to Fund Construction of New $10.9 Million County Jail Rejected by Voters

BY LEANN DILECK & MELANIE BUCK –

After months of public debate, town hall meetings, and newspaper articles, voters had the opportunity to let their voices be heard regarding a proposed tax increase to fund a $10.9 million jail facility during a Special Election Tuesday, May 12. Voter turn out was considered to be light for such a Special Election with 553 voting during early election and a remaining 1,446 casting their ballots on Tuesday.

Results show that Polk County voters spoke decisively on this issue with 1,187 voters (60%) voting to reject the first measure for a permanent ¼ cent Sales and Use Tax for the purpose of an additional source of revenue to be used to acquire, construct, improve, expand, equip, furnish, operate and maintain new or existing jail and law enforcement facilities, including any necessary land acquisition and utility, road and parking improvements related thereto or in support thereof and to pay and secure the repayment of bonds approved by the voters and issued by the County from time to time to finance jail and law enforcement facilities and facilities related thereto or in support thereof (“Jail and Law Enforcement Bonds”).

On the second measure, 1,194 voters (60%) voted to reject a new ¾ cent Sales and Use Tax for the purpose of retiring bonds used to construct the new jail. The ¾ cent tax would be used for “a new jail, sheriff’s office, arraignment room, 911 dispatch center, and administrative offices related to law enforcement and any necessary land acquisition and utility, road and parking improvements related thereto and in support thereof.”

Polk County Sheriif Mike Godfrey had this to say following the release of the election results,

“Of course I’m disappointed… I know what the future holds. I know it is only a matter of time before the state shuts us down.” Godfrey explained another inspection is coming up in September or October. “The last thing we want is to be shut down. It will cost the county in transport fees and have deputies off the street.”

Godfrey assured residents that this will not affect how he or his staff do their job. “Our focus is to protect and serve. We will continue to arrest and charge people and take care of the citizens of Polk County.”

He added that one of their top priorities must be on keeping the existing jail open for as long as possible and one of the first ways to do that and avoid lawsuits is staying within their certified capacity of 25. “We’ve been averaging 39,” Godfrey explained, “That essentially means there will be more criminals on the streets.”

There is no “Plan B” Godfrey explained. “We can put a band-aid on the jail to keep it open as long as we can by doing some small things but they won’t fix the bigger problem.”

 

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3 comments

  1. *slow clap* way to be small minded losers polk county…..*slow clap*….wayyyyy to go.

  2. For $10 million the taxpayers could pay for and have installed basic digital video systems with power backup in every residence and business in Polk County, that would record the moves of every mouse and man on property 24/7. Can put the same smart systems in every moving vehicle too. Guard dogs as well are quite helpful and relatively inexpensive, with proper care and training.

    There is always a Plan B. The local Plan A should be finishing the state park project and fixing the county road potholes, before tackling another major taxpayer expenditure.

    Does Polk County need a better jail, and modern facilities and tools for law enforcement? No doubt.

    The problems with this initial proposal were myriad – over capacity bordering on policing-for-profit in an area with a stagnant population, sky high sales taxes approaching the highest not only in the state but in the entire country with no offsets for low income residents, lack of emphasis on alternative programs for first time illegal drug users and youthful offenders, lack of harsher sentencing and higher fines for repeat criminals including meth dealers, unwillingness to confront the state and feds over jail design guidelines that are clearly too strict and expensive – and all will have to be addressed before any re-do of the jail taxes vote, to avoid the same negative result.

    Folks that voted this down are not anti-police nor pro-crook, far from it. What they expect is something that is, both at face value and long term, more cost effective, and that does not detract from the natural charms and private sector economic opportunities of an area that should never become a prison town and career criminal transit point as a primary source of public income.

    There is a reasonable solution to this, but this latest jail tax scheme was not it.

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