County delay of womens' jail: most of
$1M in rentals didn't need to be...
With the county jail over-crowding issue getting worse by each passing day, the county's
delay on the women's jail seems ridiculously counter-productive and negligent.
Why it's late October and we still have no lease, don't know if the rent is within budget,
if costs will exceed Commissioner Al Ambrosini's expected $100K estimate to get it up to
code, or if the county needs to readvertise for property a second time anytime soon for
the womens' jail.
A recent RTK answer, as per this email from the chief county clerk, states: "In response
to the RTK request you submitted on Sept. 23 for which an answer is due today, Sept.
30 and you "want to know how many property owners submitted requests for have their
property used for the temporary women's prison, vid bids,: the answer is one."
The eight-page RTK answer contained eight pages of material from 1 bid on a two-story
Gallatin Avenue building that was not considered. The RTK answer requesting to know
how many properties were considered contained no information on the one-story Iowa
Street building previously used by the school district and longer ago by the state for an
old "unemployment office."
Five days ago, Commissioner Vince Zapotosky at a county commissioner, commented
that there's always a chance that the Iowa Street owner could decide against leasing to
the county, if transforming the space into a jail requires changes that the landlord
opposes making to the structure. Zapotosky didn't seem to expect the owner of the Iowa
Street property to withdraw his property from consideration, but presented that
With the jail over-crowding issue getting worse by each passing day, the county's delay
on the women's jail seems counter-productive and negligent.
While the county pitifully fast-tracked the new jail selection and elimination process, the
county demonstrates no real common sense to be moving at what seems to be such a
snail's pace on the womens' jail.
A recent RTK answer from the county said there was only one bid received from an
interested property owner for a two-story brick building on Gallatin Avenue. Five days
ago, the commission majority voted to award an architectural contract for a design to
accommodate 50 female prisoners and voted to seek bids from contractors to complete
the work on the Iowa Street building, still not under lease and its rent still unknown.
That the sheriff, the DOC and Mr. Crabtree were inside the building to determine the
building's needs to meet state requirements for prisoner occupancy is a good sign. We're
just unsure when they were inside and determined the windows and other structural
concerns would need to be addressed, as the newspaper article two days ago did not
mention when this group visit happened.
Why was the temporary womens' jail not decided upon sooner? Why was the
temporary women's jail clumped in, almost as an after-thought that warranted top
priority before the jail vote took place last week? Why didn't the very first meeting
of the jail ad hoc committee end with the recommendation to the prison board
and commissioners to run with that project?
Who doesn't know the answer to that question? Fifty less women at the county jail
would have decreased the jail population and over-crowding. It can be ready soon, we
learn in today's paper. The womens' jail could have been ready a year ago. It should
have been ready and open long ago.
Why is it that that assessment of the Iowa Street property wasn't made long ago,
when the real decision to use the building was actually made?
That most of the out of county cage rental fees would have been eliminated had the
womens' shelter been opened months ago is the county majority's biggest hypocracy in
There were far wiser alternatives available that the county ignored and seemed to walk a
mile to avoid that could have saved money on rentals and eased over-crowding. If the
county really cared about the money spent out of county rentals and cared about county
prisoners in crowded cells here, the womens' jail would have been open already now for
a few months.
By choice, the county stacked the deck for the highest number possible of prisoner
counts, wanting to keep inside the walls as many prisoners as humanly possible and in as
many out of county rentals as possible, to help support a need for a new 480 cell jail.
There is nothing that the county can say in defense of its conscious choice to delay the
womens' jail till now. Nothing. The womens' jail and a Work Release program have
been purposely delayed problem solving solutions. Public officials who play around with
public money so carelessly are carelessly negligent.
The next time that million dollar plus mark is announced that the county is wasting on
out of county rentals, think of how low that number would have been and should have
been, if the county had been problem solving for more immediate solutions.
20 Oct 13