Bob Henkle

Heading for Another Wasteful Boondoggle!

There is nothing wrong with looking at the rice of anything you are going to pay for, especially when itís someone else whoís spending your money!† The proposed new Delaware County Jail is certainly no exception! Most eveyrone knows that this isnít the first proposed effort to increase the size of the jail in recent years. Seven years ago the citizens of Delaware County were threatened by huge daily fines if the jail capacity wasnít increased. The citizens voted to give the committee that had been formed a more or less open book to build a new jail.

The proposed cost of the project originally was to be $1 million. That quickly increased to two, then three and 4 million, and most people think there was substantially more money that went unreported. And guess what:† the open book we gave that committee ended up spending far more than they were expected to but the capacity of the jail only increased from about 40 prisoners to 52, which wasnít enough before it was even opened. But we did get ornate new courtrooms, judges offices with private bathrooms and totally new offices for all county officials and their staffs. The new jail turned into a mostly new courthouse!

Now,† just seven or eight years later we are being asked to turn our commissioners and their cronies loose once again. This time we are being asked to spend as much as $35† million or more with little knowledge of what we are actually going to get, how the money is to be allocated and if any local citizen with practical sense and construction knowledge will be overlooking the disbursement of these funds! Several questions quickly come to mind, like:

A. The firm who designed this proposed structure is also being given the contract to build it, without any competitive bidding at all!

B. The size of this proposed structure is being increased from the current supposed maximum of about 60 to 228. Is that size necessary now? We surely arenít going to become the crime capitol of Oklahoma any time soon! The Tulsa County Jail has a capacity of 1000 to 1200 prisoners in an area that does have serious crime in a population area almost 20 times as great as ours!

C. Our county commissioners arenít recognized as capable managers and yet they want to build a jail that they can try to manage like a prison. They anticipate attracting prisoners from anywhere in the U.S.A. who need to be closely supervised and guarded, a skill and experience not abundant in our area! This could easily turn out to be chaotic!

D. Families and fiends come to call on those held in these facilities, sometimes even settling in the area. Is that a good thing for Delaware County?

E. The $.005 sales tax that is being proposed will be reduced to $.0035 after the building is paid for. This indicates that the majority of the funds collected will be used for supervision and salaries, not construction; which translates to Delaware County taxpayers paying for the supervision and management of criminals from other areas of the state and nation!

Weíre told that a great deal of study has gone into this proposal. We were told the same thing a few years ago! It turned out to be a magnificent boondoggle. Now we are once again threatened with dire consequences if we donít accept this questionable plan. Should we really be building a facility to house other areasí criminals? Do we need to be housing criminals from the Tribal Police forces and the Department of Corrections? Are we even capable of handling them? If it is such a desirable business why do other areas want to send their criminals to us for us to take care of?

Certainly a structure half the proposed size would take care of our own criminals for a reasonable period of time. Building in pods to which others could be added would be a more reasonable approach to this problem, yet I seriously doubt if itís even been discussed.

We all realize that some solution to this problem is called for, but does it necessarily require a massive building, at an exaggerated expense, planned and approved by a board of commissioners who are frankly not the most qualified to make decisions of this magnitude?

I just donít feel this is the ideal solution for this problem, and feel it should be given far greater attention. Elevating our sales tax for this project at this time is a mistake weíll all be paying for, for a long time. Letís turn it down and search for a more reasonable approach!

Bob Henkle