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KATIE ZERR:Commission needs our support in finding a solution

Where do we go from here?
Now that the bond issue to fund a $10.5 million dollar jail facility was soundly defeated, what is the next step?
After the Tuesday, Nov. 6, election, the Walworth County Commission is back to square one. They now have more decisions to make when it comes to what is next for the current facility and what needs to be done.
For some, it seems the hardest part is over. The taxpayers made it abundantly clear they do not want to shoulder a $10.5 million tax burden if what some were trying to sell didn’t pan out. With no guarantees on revenue, operational and maintenance budgets or staff issues, taxpayers were not willing to take a chance.
Now what?
The commission must look at all options. At Friday’s county commission meeting, Sheriff Josh Boll supplied an architect’s rendering of renovations to the current facility that would make the current facility large enough to meet the needs of Walworth County law enforcement and cost much less than $10.5 million. This rendition was created by HKG and Associates, a firm the commission had worked with several years ago, when they began researching a new facility.
The renovation is a $1.7 million option that was not a part of recent options presented to taxpayers. Of course the renovation costs will be higher now than when the plans were created, but that option should be a part of the mix to be considered.
The commissioners still have a big hill to climb. There may be a trust issue for some taxpayers as they are reminded that there were other options all along this journey that didn’t get the same consideration as the 70-bed facility.
It seemed like a dog with a bone. Once the plan for the regional jail concept was sold to some on the jail committee and to some commissioners, all other options fell by the wayside.
That seems unfair to the taxpayers of Walworth County.
Now the approach to the problem we have must be viewed with open minds. That means all options should get a chance to be heard.
Commissioner Marion Schlomer brought up the option of having the new facility built in Mobridge, as that is where 96 percent of the arrests are made.
Boll seemed to balk at that, saying his department makes arrests also. The South Dakota Attorney General’s crime statistics show, according to reports provided by law enforcement in our county, that the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office claimed six full-time employees. On record, they made 28 arrests in 2017. One arrest was made for disorderly conduct, 11 for DUI and eight for other offenses, including simple assault, vehicle theft and identity theft.
In comparison, the Mobridge Police Department, with seven full-time officers, made a total of 435 arrests. Those included DUI, disorderly conduct and vehicle theft arrests, but also 81 drug-related arrests, 73 simple or aggravated assault arrests and four arrests in kidnapping or rape cases.
These statistics show that considering the option that Schlomer suggested should be on the table.
This does not mean Mobridge is trying to steal the county seat from Selby. It does not mean moving court out of the courthouse. It does not mean trying to steal jobs from Selby (a lot of people make the trip to Mobridge for their jobs). It simply means this option should also be in consideration.
As does closing down the current facility and transporting Walworth County inmates to Faulk County. That option would allow the county some time to gather true information on the actual costs of this option. It will give the commission time to see what the pros and cons of this option actually are and not some conjecture presented by some with no actually costs to back up their claims.
Other options were put on the table at Friday’s meeting and all deserve to be explored.
The commission has a big job ahead of them. There is so much to be done, so many options to consider.
Theirs is not an easy job. Issues of this magnitude take up a lot of time and energy. They need the support of this community. We need to pay more attention to what is happening and let our commissioners know how we feel.
The commission took a first step on Friday, deciding Walworth County would no longer take BIA or U.S. Marshal Service inmates. This will ease some of the liability connected to the current facility, but not all.
Boll said he has 15 employees to consider in his decision making. The safety of those employees is a priority and so is the safety of all other law enforcement in our community.
These are the most important factors in this issue, but we must also remember that being able to afford any options being considered is also an important factor.
That is why it is vitally important that we support our commission during this time and let commissioners know we support their efforts to make the right decision for all residents of Walworth County.
– Katie Zerr –