After receiving support from Kalona, Riverside and Wellman city officials meeting at the Kalona Chamber Building July 12, the Washington County Citizens Safety Center Committee scheduled a special …
After receiving support from Kalona, Riverside and Wellman city officials meeting at the Kalona Chamber Building July 12, the Washington County Citizens Safety Center Committee scheduled a special meeting to draft language for a sample city resolution and ballot asking for adoption of a one percent local option sales tax to finance a new county safety center/jail.
The committee voted to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 14, at the board of supervisors room in the courthouse in Washington. Chairman Harvey Holden, Washington, pointed out the committee needs to draft the resolution and suggested ballot so they can make a presentation to the city council at the meetings July 19 and 20.
Kalona, Wellman and Riverside city officials indicated they could support asking for a local option sales tax if 100 percent of the funds collected would go toward retirement of the estimated $5 million cost of building the jail and safety center.
Holden explained that the committee has decided to recommend construction of a new two-story safety center with a 40-prisoner jail on the second floor. By putting the communications tower at another site, the jail could be expanded to a 56 -prisoner facility. Administrative facilities would be on the first floor where they would be more accessible to the public.
Holden and Dean Kurtz pointed out that the committee supports the facility at present site north of the courthouse due to the economic efficiencies of transporting prisoners for court appearances, etc. They noted the cost of the facility represents only about 20 percent of the cost of operations over the expected 30 year life of the facility.
Holden pointed out that Brighton, Ainsworth and West Chester city councils have indicated support, but he hadn’t gotten a final word from Crawfordsville. He added that three of four council members at a recent Washington meeting indicated they would support a local option sales tax. The fourth needed more questions answered. Holden said he thought he could answer those questions and get full support from Washington, noting that without the city’s support, the local option sales tax would not pass.
Kalona councilors indicated they could support the issue, especially if all the tax would go toward the facility so the debt could be retired in six to seven years. It is estimated that the one percent tax would generate about $1.1 to $1.4 million a year. The tax would then sunset when the debt is retired. If the economy goes bad, it would take longer to end the tax.
“This (support of cities) gives us a little more confidence to go ahead,” Holden told the Kalona, Riverside and Wellman officials. Cities must now petition the county supervisors to have the local option sales tax put on a ballot, maybe at the same time as the November city elections.
Holden stressed that the state jail inspector was allowing the present facility to remain operational because of progress being made toward building a new facility. If positive progress is not made by December 31, the Washington jail capacity will be reduced to a maximum of eight prisoners.
Greg VanEgden, Kalona, questioned why a regional jail facility wasn’t being considered. He was told that other counties already have new or are building new jails and that the cost of transporting prisoners would be too high.
VanEgden also expressed concern about the sales tax being too regressive, but Holden noted the a property tax levy probably wouldn’t pass, especially considering the present farm economy.
In answer to VanEgden’s question about a back up plan, committee members said if the sales tax issue fails again, it will have to be up to another committee to find another solution.
Holden stressed that once the public is properly informed about the desperate need for a new jail, law enforcement administration building and new communications center, the project should pass.
It was also noted that the 50 cents-a-month telephone service charge will not go into effect until January l and that would produce only about $60,000 a year toward the estimated need of $500,000 to upgrade the communications equipment.