Jerome jail Bond Confirmed for May Ballot

2013-01-22T02:10:00Z Jerome jail Bond Confirmed for May BallotBy Julie Wootton - jwootton@magicvalley.com Twin Falls Times-News

JEROME • In May, Jerome voters will be asked to decide for a fifth time about funding a new jail.

Jerome County commissioners decided in a split 2-1 vote last week to move forward with a ballot measure during the May 21 election.

A bond amount hasn’t been set yet.

Reed Miller of Idaho Falls, vice president of Ormond Builders and a consultant for the county, is reevaluating the cost of building a new jail. He wasn’t available to comment Monday.

Commission Cathy Roemer voted “no” on the May election date.

She said on Monday that the vote wasn’t about whether the county needs a new jail — just about whether to pursue a bond in May.

“With so many financial unknowns, I thought it best to take a ‘wait and see’ approach and see where we are in another 6-8 months,” she wrote in an email to the Times-News.

Roemer said Jerome County could lose $933,000 in revenue if state legislators repeal the personal property tax. And she said health insurance costs could increase during the coming years.

Also, the city of Jerome plans to take a ballot measure to voters during the May election to fund upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant.

The City Council hasn’t made a final decision yet, but members of a citizen advisory group are recommending a $56.5 million bond issue.

“I thinking asking taxpayers to vote more taxes upon themselves will jeopardize the passage of both proposals,” Roemer said.

Proponents of a new jail say the current facility must be replaced for the safety of inmates and staff, as well as to address issues such as plumbing and electrical wiring hazards.

Jerome County Sheriff Doug McFall said the design plan for a new jail is the same as the last bond election.

However, minor parts of the plans may change as the project moves forward, he said.

To get ready for the May election, the jail administrator is putting together a citizen advisory group.

It will research some options for the jail and ways to educate the public about the jail situation, McFall said.

There have been four other attempts to pass a jail bond, starting in 2009.

Though the majority of voters have supported the past bond measures, the numbers haven’t reached the 66.7 percent supermajority needed to OK the funding.

The latest attempt was in May 2012 for a $10.7 million bond. It received support from 63 percent of voters.

Copyright 2014 Twin Falls Times-News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. Brent Myers
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    Brent Myers - February 25, 2013 2:15 pm
    Back on April 30, 2012 I sent the following email to the Jerome County Commissioners: I believe it is our responsibility as voters to stay informed on what is and is not going on in our government. With that in mind I made email contact with several of our Jerome County elected officials this past week in an attempt to become better informed on the issue of the jail bond. The only one that even made an attempt to respond was Cathy Roemer. Ms. Roemer was respectful in her response but avoided answering my questions. She offered to meet me in person and to even talk with me on the phone about the subject or to meet with me in person. I apprised her that I preferred that she respond in writing to my questions so that I could take time to review her response and make an informed dissection.
    You be the judge as to whether or not our county commissioners and Sheriff should answer my questions?
    • Do we need a new jail?
    • If we need a new jail, why do we need one?
    • If we need a new jail why put it by wow logistics?
    • What types of inmates are we incarcerating?
    Types of crimes, male, female, pre adjudicated, post adjudicated misdemeanor offenders, felony offenders, state prisoners, federal prisoners, immigration holds…
    • What are the alternatives to a brick and mortar jail?
    • What is the rate of recidivism in the county jail?
    • Are we reducing recidivism rates by incarcerating our criminal population?
    • How can we reduce recidivism rate?
    • Can the county save money by implementing alternatives to a brick and mortar jail?
    • Can the county save money by implementing research based treatment programs?
    I would think that if our elected officials have in fact done their homework they would be able to answer these questions without hesitation.
    As of February 25, 2013 I have not received an answer to my questions. The county Commissioners and Sheriff McFall would like to treat us voters like mushrooms and keep us in the dark and feed us ... I for one am not going to stand by and blindly give our Sheriff one dime without receiving some answers.
  2. idwindstar
    Report Abuse
    idwindstar - January 22, 2013 5:31 pm
    How will the $600K "stay in the county"? Will all the bond holders be in-county? Can you be sure all the new staff will live in Jerome?
  3. idwindstar
    Report Abuse
    idwindstar - January 22, 2013 5:27 pm
    Let's hear the business case for renting out empty jail beds given that Gooding County will already be doing that 10 minutes down the road. If we're being given the same proposal again, then all the same arguments against it still apply. Why would anyone change their vote?
  4. Andre Leonard
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    Andre Leonard - January 22, 2013 12:12 pm
    The city and county are both to be commended for dealing with these issues. Preparing for the future involves planning and preparing for it.

    Jerome county currently spends approximately $600,000 a year placing inmates in neighboring county jails. That is money that will stay in Jerome county when the new jail is finished.

    By design or default the county currently has a jail that's 40 years old and cannot house today's inmate population. This new jail could easily pay for itself just by saving the county $600,000 a year.
  5. Mother
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    Mother - January 22, 2013 7:48 am
    Come on people, lets get this passed. We need a new jail. Frustrated!

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