JAY – A tentative election date of July 29 has been set for a funding proposal to build a new jail in Delaware County.

The Delaware County Public Facilities Authority board set the election date Wednesday.

The board plans to put a sales tax increase proposal before voters.

However, Grove City Manager Bruce Johnson and Grove City Council member Larry Parham told board members and those in attendance that Grove would not support a sales tax increase.

The two explained that the city of Grove needs infrastructure improvements that may already require a sales tax increase within the city.

Johnson claimed that the passing of a sales tax would cut off the city’s revenue stream as residents from the Grove area would go elsewhere to shop.

Parham stated that the north end of the county would prefer an ad valorem tax.

The comments opened up the floor to speculation concerning people who rent property and don’t pay taxes, those who come to Grand Lake in the summer to vacation, tribal land falling under federal jurisdiction, and property owned by the City of Tulsa (Lake Eucha) and the Wildlife Game Management Area that belongs to the State of Oklahoma.

According to board members, it was determined that the sales tax increase would be the only fair way to fund the much-needed facility.

The proposed jail is a 228-bed facility, which will cost an estimated $11,622,004, and will be located in the Industrial Park in Jay with a tentative completion date of January of 2011.

The push for a new detention center stems from a meeting of the Delaware County Commissioners on March 26, 2006.

Don Garrison, Director of State Jail Inspectors and Inspector Cal Kester, addressed the County Commissioners at that meeting regarding the overpopulation and overcrowding in the Delaware County Jail.

Garrison stated that Delaware County has a 61-bed jail and has had numerous instances of overcrowding through the years. He observed that the overcrowding issues must be addressed and reduced somehow as soon as possible. 

He said if the problem was not addressed he would be forced to invoke the Administrative Compliance Act which would request that the Attorney General shut the jail completely down or set a fine of $10,000.00 dollars a day for every day the infraction takes place.

While no one at Wednesday’s meeting argued about the need for a new facility, there are different approaches to funding the project.

On March 8, 1988, Delaware County voters decided that a sales tax increase was the only “fair” way to fund the solid waste program for the county. Some of the same arguments presented concerning the jail funding issue now were presented at that time, including the fact that tourists who come to the lake area and those who rent property use the green boxes located throughout the county and do not pay ad valorem taxes.

The majority of voters decided on a .5% permanent increase, or 1/2 cent in the subsequent election.

After committee members heard numbers quoted regarding revenue that would be collected with a property tax increase, another avenue for funding was suggested.

According to Johnson, there was a possibility of “flipping” funds collected from a sales tax increase passed by Delaware County voters on May 1, 2001, for the county fire departments, to an ad valorem tax instead.

In the 2001 vote for fire department funding, an excise tax perpetuity of .4% was approved by county voters. The proposition stated that the sales tax increase could be terminated at any time after five years by a single majority vote, allowing voters to drop the sales tax in 2006.

Johnson went on to discuss how many fire runs were made from the Grove Fire Department and compared the number to smaller county fire departments. He offered to gather numbers and information to determine the feasibility of changing the fire departments to ad valorem funding for the committee before the meeting was adjourned.

Both Johnson and Parham claimed that 61% to 65% of the sales tax collected in Delaware County comes from Grove for distribution throughout Delaware County.

Parham commented said that he thinks the committee needs to “keep the north end happy.”

While some members of the committee agreed that the two had some valid points, the funding issue is now stalled until information can be collected regarding the possibility of an increase of ad valorem tax, or changing the funding means for county fire departments.

There has been some speculation about the proposed size of the facility that was addressed by County Commissioner Ken Crowder. Crowder told the group that when the existing jail was built nine years ago, it was too small and, in his opinion, citizens needed to look at the future growth of Delaware County and build a jail with that in mind.

The proposed property will also provide for future growth as the need arises.

The next meeting of the Delaware County Public Facilities Authority is set for 2 p.m. in the Commissioners office of the Delaware County Courthouse on Wed., April 2.