By Mike Thayer
The new jail/justice center has a pretty high price tag, the reported amount is $48.6 million, although my county road sources tell me that estimated costs have already shot up to $49.5 million. And given the inept history of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, they've tried to make the figure as appealing as possible in an effort to get this bond issue passed in November. Watch - if the ballot issue is approved, the $48.6 million figure the supervisors fed us will grow. History tells us (just take a look at their budget history) that when the county supervisors give us a cost estimate, they're wrong, things will go 'overbudget'. Remember that keyword of inept, when you hear Supervisor Rod "F*&^ You!" Sullivan feign foul about cost overruns..... When the truth is the supervisors didn't properly assess the situation in the first place.
Here's something to think about, something you haven't been told......
Does this new justice center proposal include plans to build a jail with a higher security standard than necessary in order to allow the housing of federal (higher risk) prisoners? That dramatically drives the price up, and one has to ask, "Why do we need to meet federal prisoner criteria here in Johnson County?"
I'll tell you why - money.
If Sheriff Pulkrabek can house higher risk prisoners in a new Johnson County jail, he can collect a fee to house those prisoners from law enforcement agencies outside of Johnson County wishing to rent jail space.
So how does that really solve the overcrowding issue, the main argument behind the new jail cause? If the proposal for a new jail is for 243 beds and the current jail is busting at the seams averaging up to 190 inmates on a daily basis, why would you eliminate growth needs by bringing in prisoners from outside the county and higher risk prisoners to boot? Money. That's a short term gain at best, but the stated problem didn't get fixed. You're immediately back to having an overcrowded jail. And would such revenue really be revenue?
Keep following the money. If Sheriff Pulkrabek starts housing higher risk prisoners or even petty crime prisoners from the next county over, then that means a bigger sheriff's office, as in more staffing, more equipment, more administration...... $$$$$$..... Increased costs, a greater taxpayer obligation. And for what really? A brand new overcrowded jail? Does that make sense to you? Let me guess, the prisoner population will be better managed right? Do you really believe that? Really?
Keep following the money. If Sheriff Pulkrabek gets all the above, then he makes the argument that he needs a bigger salary, after all, he's got all this added responsibility with the new jail right!?
Some serious detailed questions need to be asked. It should be noted that the J0hnson County Democrats have unwisely endorsed the justice center ballot issue, without it seems, asking some pointed questions. With blinders on, local Democrat *leaders* have given the green light to a project the public is being spoon fed selected information on. We aren't being given the who, what, where, why stuff. Tours of the current jail is a nice marketing idea, but the public isn't being told about what's really going into the new jail and why. We're just told we need it, how many beds it has and how nice it will be to have a few more courtrooms.
Why $46.8 million? Why 243 beds? Why six courtooms and not five? What is the expected prisoner load in 2, 3, 5 years? Are there plans to rent out jail space? Will there be more staffing needs? What are the increased annual administrative and operational costs?
And don't forget, there's still a number of problems with the Joint Emergency Communications Center. How can taxpayers expect the smooth operation of a new jail, when the county has NOT demonstrated an ability to fix all the issues with the JECC? Johnson County Supervisors and Sheriff Pulkrabek need to answer that question.
Government is a terrible multi-tasker.
Given the current crop of supervisors, I cannot vote for a new jail. They've already started screwing it up and not one brick has been laid.