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.”