Janet Barber

Grove Sun

JAY – The Delaware County Public Facilities Authority has been meeting with the public to gather more input on what residents want concerning the building of a new detention center and their feelings on how it should be funded.

The authority has set a pubic meeting for Thurs., Nov. 5 starting at 6 p.m. at the Jay Community Center and is asking that city officials and residents countywide attend.

As part of the meeting agenda, the authority will be asking designated spokespersons to represent Jay, Colcord, Oaks, West Siloam, Kansas, Bernice and Grove city councils and the Cowskin communities to voice their opinions of the six possible options and which option they could support.

Members of the authority attended city council meetings throughout the county in October, discussing the six options available to the county to come to a solution for the overcrowding situation in the Delaware County Jail.

The five options available are:

1. Jay Industrial Park, 228-bed facility at a total cost of $11,322,004 or $49,658 per bed cost.

2. Jay Industrial Park, 221-bed facility at a total cost of $10,915,092 or $51,976 per bed cost.

3. Jay Industrial Park, 174-bed facility at a total cost of $10,515,092 or $60,431 per bed cost.

4. NW section of the courthouse, 184-bed facility at a total cost of $10,079,619 or $54,761 per bed cost.

5. Courthouse basement, 36-beds at a total cost of $1,319,497 or $36,653 per bed cost.

6. Courthouse basement, 36-beds at a total cost of $1,319,497 built with sales tax only for an 11-month period.

Rick Smith of Municipal Finance Services has been asked to attend the meeting as well to field questions regarding funding options.

According to authority members, the jail can be built with funds from ad valorem taxes, but cannot be maintained with those property tax collections, it must be maintained with sales tax. Funding and maintenance and operation can be provided with a straight sales tax increase.

The funding issue will be researched and citizens will be asked how they want to go about collecting the money for the facility.

“You can do a sales tax for both, or you’ll have to have ad valorem and sales tax passage. Either funding option will have to be put to the vote of the people,” Smith said in a prior meeting.

Ad valorem tax passage would have to be a 60% majority in order to pass the issue. The sales tax increase would be a simple majority of the vote.

“The problem with a ad valorem/sales tax funding option, it that you pass the ad valorem tax increase, but the sales tax increase does not pass. Then you have a detention facility with no want to operate it,” Smith concluded.

The next possible election date would be February 2010, according to a financial evaluation of jail options handed out in a September 3 meeting of the authority.

In the September meeting, District Attorney Eddie Wyant was asked about the hearing with attorneys with the State Health Department involving the pending lawsuit facing the county over overcrowding in the present jail.

“It’s my belief that we’re pushing them into a corner. They’re going to fine us and we’re going to pay. They’ll have to fine us to show that this law has some teeth. They’re going to make a believer out of us.”

Wyant went on to say that he believes the fine could be anywhere from $500 to $1000 per day per prisoner out of compliance and that amount will go up until something is done.

“Even if we’re fined, the lawsuit will not go away. They will fine us until we make it go away and then the fines will stop. They want this resolved,” he added. “Right now they’ve suspended the next hearing date because we’re making another effort, but hearing date will be set 10 days after the election we hold should the election fail again. I’ll be back in Oklahoma City on that day.”

The District Attorney’s office, judges and law enforcement have been working diligently to keep the situation in hand to the point that those committing misdemeanors are being released on their own recognizance.