TWIN FALLS — The landscape of Addison Avenue West could take on a significant addition in the coming years.
County-owned land near Rock Creek Park is one potential site for a new Twin Falls County jail. The property, which measures just under nine acres, is located across the canyon from the County West building.
A citizens committee to explore an expansion of the downtown jail and courthouse is recommending that the county build a new 500-bed jail elsewhere to alleviate crowding and accommodate future growth. Committee members will formally present their recommendations later this month to the board of commissioners, who will make a decision on which path the county pursues.
Should the commissioners decide to move forward with the process of building a new jail off-site, the costliness of the construction alone may rule out the possibility of purchasing new land for the jail, Commissioner Jack Johnson previously told the Times-News. That would likely mean using land already owned by the county — such as the property near Rock Creek.
A study commissioned by the county last year projected that a new jail would need at least 400 beds to cover the county’s needs for the next 30 years. (The existing jail, originally built to house 135 inmates, has 224 beds.) But those numbers may already be outdated, county officials say.
The study put the projected cost of building a new jail off-site at about $44 million but noted that the cost could rise as high as $60 million by 2020. The project would require a bond, meaning voters will have the ultimate say in whether the county constructs a new jail now or later.
While using county property would likely be the least expensive option, the commissioners have not yet rejected the possibility of purchasing land elsewhere if the county decides to pursue construction of a new jail. A swath of empty property directly north of County West would be a desirable site for a new jail, but may be too costly, Johnson said.
“I’d never rule it out,” Johnson said. “If the price was right, it would be a great location to do that.”