Commission hears discussion on new jail

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By Sandy Bond –

At the Tuesday, Dec. 4, meeting of the Walworth County Commission, James J. Brennan, President and CEO, of Brennan Group, Columbia, S.C. and David Cruseturner, Managing Director, of Brennan Management Services, Little Rock, Ark., appeared before the board to discuss jail specifics.

They have been doing their homework, they said, since they last appeared before commissioners at their Aug. 22, meeting, when commissioners requested facts and figures.

At the Aug. 21, meeting, Cruseturner and Brennan met with commissioners inquiring about specifics. One question posed was if commissioners approved building an addition and renovating the “newer” structure built in 1999, will other counties be interested in securing contracts with Walworth County? The issue has been a concern to Chief Deputy Josh Boll, who had been authorized to extend the invitation to discuss the topic with Brennan and Cruseturner. At their August meeting Boll expressed his concern of the possibility of injury and resulting litigation if a correctional office, inmates, or private citizen were injured or killed and the county was discovered to be at fault. The damages that could be awarded in this hypothetical scenario might be much more costly than the bricks and mortar, Breennan and Crusteturner told commissioners. Crime may escalate, Boll reminded commissioners, with the influx of many employed in the oil fields of western North Dakota as they travel to and from their homes in other states.

The firm custom-designs the structures so that they blend into the community, so for example, a jail would not look like a jail, just another office building, they said at the August meeting. Modifications could be made to enable inmates and correctional officers to travel between the jail and the courthouse for trial in inclement weather without leaving the building. The newer unit will house additional inmates. The older section could be used for recreation for inmates or to expand the kitchen. Revenue enhancers could include video conferencing visits. Housing inmates from the Federal Marshall’s Office and others from adjoining counties or states could help pay for the building

and renovation. The cost of the study could be $20,000 plus related expenses including air travel, etc.  The voters of the county will probably have the last word.

Some commissioners said that they have heard several individuals express their concern about the proposed building and renovation of the existing jail facility saying: “Didn’t we just build and renovate the jail a few years ago?”

On the agenda was a seemingly routine item to appoint James Hare as State Attorney, effective Dec. 17. This was necessitated by the resignation of former states sttorney Chris Jansen, after Hare, an Independent, defeated incumbent and Republication Jansen. In submitting his resignation, Jansen told commissioners he has plans to enter private practice. Laurie Bauer has offered to serve as interim state’s attorney until Hare can begin. Harold Forbes provided the only “no” vote. When questioned following adjournment, Forbes said, indeed, he had voted no and the reason was, although the public had voted to elect Hare, Forbes said, “When you hire an individual you expect to know who you are appointing. I wouldn’t know him if he walked into the room,” he said. “Would you?” he asked commissioner Jerry Frailing. Frailing replied that he had not met newly-elected States Attorney Hare.

In other business, commissioners:

• Authorized the purchase of a 2013 motor grader off the Spink County bid at $254,540, at the request of highway superintendent Penny Goetz with new Butler Machinery representative Dave Sangster in attendance. It will probably be assigned to highway department employee Marty Hook.

• Authorized Goetz to apply for $143,698 in state funding that can be used for various highway projects.

• Authorized real estate tax abatement for Shelly Sitting Dog and Hapi Homes.

– Sandy Bond –


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