Commission hears preliminary jail plan
– By Sandy Bond
Walworth County Commissioners, Tuesday, Feb. 19, heard a proposal for a $4 million project to construct a new jail addition in Selby.
According to local real estate developer Jim Ruhl of Aberdeen, he became aware of the proposed plan by commissioners to build a 52- to 54-bed jail addition and remodeling project for the existing jail at a chance meeting with Sheriff Duane Mohr. Mohr told him that they are presently engaged in acquiring a feasibility study from another company. Ruhl said he has worked with Dean Marske, architect for HKG Architects, Inc., of Aberdeen, on a number of projects over the years and have established a firm working relationship.
As a developer, Ruhl has developed such projects as the Coca-Cola and Frito Lay plants over the years. His expertise, he told the commissioners, is not building jails.
After speaking with Mohr and Chief Deputy Josh Boll, and viewing the preliminary drawings submitted by Marske’s firm, Mohr and Boll said they were impressed with Marske’s proposed plans. Ideas were more user friendly and seem that they would blend architecturally with the existing jail and courthouse. At an estimated cost of approximately $4 million, it was about $1 million less than very rough estimates prepared by the other firm.
When asked how the county would finance the project, Ruhl said by continuing to board inmates from other counties and boarding pre-sentenced, non-violent inmates from the U.S. Federal Marshall’s office, it could be lucrative for the finances. Additionally, as the state penitentiaries reach maximum capacity, he said, he has heard that the mindset for incarcerating nonviolent offenders found guilty of DUIs and drug-related crimes will revert to giving counties more responsibility for incarcerating nonviolent inmates. The state penitentiary would continue to incarcerate those criminals that must be kept locked away from society.
If the county makes the decision not to float a bond, an option might be to have Ruhl develop the property with no down payment and lease it to the county at $35,000 per month for 25 years.
Ruhl reiterated he doesn’t want to eventually own a jail that can never be renovated into something else, so there would be no buyback. This would eliminate complying with federal mandates, advertising for bids, etc.
No action was taken on the proposal.
Commissioners also found themselves dealing with unpaid taxes and possible evictions from property that the county now owns because of unpaid taxes. Lila Martel, previous owner of property at 303 Seventh Ave. East, Mobridge, owes more than $7,000 in back taxes and appealed to commissioners for some mutual solution, such as a payment plan, that would allow her to continue living in her home of 40 years.
Although commissioners expressed their sympathy, they said they had no choice. Since the county now finds itself in possession of the home, they are also liable.
The paperwork and legal proceedings will take at least 30 days to complete prior to the final eviction notice.
Mohr was authorized to continue the process of evicting the occupant(s) of dwellings at 515 Fourth St. West, and 324 Fifth Ave. West in Mobridge for non-payment of taxes. The occupant is living there illegally with reportedly no water, sewage, electricity, etc., and the city and county are concerned about health issues. The protocol for eviction according to Walworth County State’s Attorney Jamie Hare is to send a notice to quit (or leave) premises. If that individual doesn’t leave they are served with forced entry and detainer.
If they believe it is unfair, they are given the option to appeal their case in front of a judge who will either issue an eviction order or rules to deny that eviction.
Following an introduction of the new Indian Creek Park Manager Dan Richards and Conservation Doug DeLaRoi, commissioners discussed the closing of the park section of Lake Molstad to the public to reduce liability with School and Public Lands representative.
It is the consensus of commissioners, and the School and Public Lands, and others, that the easement that the county has with the Ronald Lindeman family for land surrounding the park should be retained for access to the boat ramp, necessary maintenance of the spillway, etc. The land is one example of the 750,000 acres that are “trust” lands granted to the state by the government upon entry into the Union. These lands are a way to produce income for the state’s schools, universities, etc.
– Sandy Bond –