List additional questions on need for safety center

By News Dept.
Posted 11/4/99

The Citizens Safety Committee this week listed the final series of questions and answers concerning the proposed one percent local option sales tax referendum to finance the proposed Washington …

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List additional questions on need for safety center


The Citizens Safety Committee this week listed the final series of questions and answers concerning the proposed one percent local option sales tax referendum to finance the proposed Washington County Public Safety Center and Jail Complex at its present site.

Sample ballots for the election are printed in The Kalona News on page 12A of this issue weeks issue.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 16. If approved, the sales tax will become effective January 1, 2000 and continue for no more than five years to finance the $5,000,000 project including the building and communications equipment.

Letters of opposition to the L.O.S.T. are in the Letter to the Editor section. An advertisement urging people to vote for the proposal also is printed on page 8A .

Following is the last in a series of questions and answers about the project:

Q: Will there be a total demolition and then the building of the new safety center? Can this be done in phases?

A: Yes. The new building and communication center will be built in two phases. The first phase will be the building to house the communication center and will be up and running before demolition of the old building would start. Lead time is approximately one year from the time of ordering communications equipment until the time it arrives, ready for installation. During that time, we would have the first corner of the building, which would house the communications completed. It would be up and running before we disconnect the old communications. The communications people say it takes about three days to install equipment after you have the building ready to go. It is important that the employees need to practice on the new equipment for about a week to become very familiar with it before they leave and stop working with the old equipment.

Q: What might the options be to minimize inconvenience and not contribute to the overall cost of the project?

A: The Court may be able to defer some sentencing.

Q: Do we need new communications?

A: Our current equipment is as old as 30 years. We have gone as far as getting parts from junkyards in order to keep the current radios in working order. One backup module is in stock here which was obtained from the last junkyard. We know of no other junkyards at this time in the nation where we can get more backup models to keep our equipment running. If one should quit, we would have to try and search nationwide for something else in somebody’s trash heap. This is a desperate situation and we would only realize it if we are unlucky and the equipment fails when you and I need it most. We have already had a couple of incidents where EMS and Emergency First Responders were not properly notified and this was due to the age of the equipment.

Q: Why are the current radios being used so old?

A: A lot of communities replaced their radios when obtaining 911 (10 years ago). We have actually squeezed another ten years out of our radios to save money.

Q: Where would we put the new communications equipment?

A: It would be put in the new building upon completion of Phase I. The one problem with our old building and new building is the installation of the new equipment to keep it running. You cannot disconnect the old equipment all the way, stop for a week without any service and install the new equipment even if the old room was usable for that.

Q: How are we liable?

A: There is a high risk of assaults on prisoners and jail staff as well as possible suicides. A new jail design has no bars - uses plexiglas walls to limit harm to each other and themselves.

Q: Are standards too strict?

A: Standards have evolved over the years as laws and dangerous situations have arisen. They are mandated by the State which has come out of the people’s choice of laws, voting and lawsuits. We have no choice in running this. The State says we must meet requirements or else we will pay. There is a liability concern. There is the safety of workers, the protection of inmates from each other and possibility from themselves.

Q: Do we need a kitchen?

A: A complete kitchen is not being recommended at this time. An area to receive prepared meals, refrigerator, etc. should be designed. This area could be a kitchen at some future time when it is economical to do so. Consultants tell us that it is cheaper to fix food on the premises if you have more than 25 inmates in your care.

Q: Should we rent out bunks that are not being used?

A: An empty bunk is worthless until we need it. In the short term, empty beds could be rented for $55 per day. If we are able to rent out bunks to other counties, we may have $200,000 as income from this per year.

Q: Will the new jail really save us money?

A: The cost of the new building in the next ten years is only 20% of our expense. The remaining 80% is from salaries and other operating expenses. A more efficient building saves staff.

Q: Where is the location for the new jail going to be?

A: The Committee has heard from the public that the most acceptable location is the present location. Many people disagree with where other choices would be, and this seems to be the simplest answer we can all agree upon. The Supervisors have accepted the committee recommendation that this is the preferred location.