JAY — The Delaware County Public Facilities Authority will be asking for public participation in order to gather more input about local opinions concerning the building of a new detention center and how it should be funded.
Members of the authority met September 3rd to decide whether or not to form a committee to poll the public as a fact-finding measure.
During last month’s meeting there was talk of forming the committee, which would not be bound under the open records/open meetings act and could circulate throughout the towns gathering input. During that meeting District Attorney Eddie Wyatt said his recommendation would be that they follow the open records/open meeting act.
Wyant proposed to the group that they invite area mayors and council members to a joint meeting to discuss the issue.
Members of the authority felt that his suggestion was sound and should be followed.
He advised that the authority be put on the towns’ agendas for October and further suggested that the group meet in November to determine a date and time when the city officials should meet.
The question at hand concerns the construction of a new detention facility with three separate options as to number of beds, an addition to the present facility or the renovation of what is commonly known as the “old jail.”
Wyant asked Grove City Council member Larry Parham what he thought and Parham suggested that the authority make a decision and just do it.
County Commissioner Bill Cornell said, “We did that before and it got shot down.”
Commissioner Dave Kendrick said, “We won’t put it on a ballot again if no one will support it.”
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 said.
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 continue to rise 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 a 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.
Grove City Manager Bruce Johnson asked about the number of beds required for future growth in Delaware County.
Commissioner Ken Crowder told him that at this time the county needs 125 beds and by 2011 the county would see a 7.9% growth per year.
“So a 228-bed facility is not too big,” Crowder noted.
Authority Member Duane Watts told the board that there was not a great deal of difference between the three options to build at the industrial park.
“We’ve out a lot of money with architects and we’re going broke doing new plans all the time. I think we should make a decision, keep it positive and stay away from the negative,” Watts said.