Cost of new detention facility will be painful

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 29, 2009

The cost of crime in Warren County is going up. Everybody will pay.

For more than a decade, it has been clear that the existing detention facility at Grove and Cherry streets, which had its last major expansion 30 years ago at a cost of $2 million, is no longer adequate by any standard. It is constantly at its 128-detainee capacity, resulting in local taxpayers paying the added cost of transporting and housing detainees in other facilities, most commonly a regional jail in Mayersville.

Still, there’s cause for “sticker shock” in an interim report provided to the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

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• At $200 per square foot, a 130,000-square-foot jail will cost $26 million to build, not including the price of land.

• A tripling of capacity to 350 will also mean an initial tripling of staff to 63 initially, projected to increase to 80, and adding $1.5 million to $2 million to Warren County’s annual payroll.

• The amounts do not include the cost of meals, medical care, utilities and maintenance and the added cost of shuttling detainees from what will likely be a remote site.

Per capita, the 50,000 residents of Warren County are looking at $520 each to build the jail and $100 or more in new taxes annually as their share of operational costs.

The numbers were part of an update provided by District 1 Supervisor David McDonald and County Administrator John Smith, two of the five county officials working with Colorado-based Voorhis/Robertson Justice Services Inc., the county’s contractual consultant, on a master plan. The final report is due in March.

The good news is that Warren County has an exemplary sheriff, Martin Pace, who is guiding the process, and that supervisors are working in steady, responsible fashion to make sure the final plans and designs are appropriate to local needs. It’s bad enough for law-abiding citizens to face ever-increasing expenses for housing and feeding people accused of crimes and convicted criminals. It’s calming to know the process is being followed with precision and professionalism.