New Jail Project Moves Forward (Photo)
MEDFORD, Ore. – The Jackson County Board of Commissioners (BOC) has taken a further step toward the construction of a new jail. In a meeting on the morning of October 16, 2018, the BOC voted to move forward with a plan to create a county-wide tax, through a service district, to support future jail operations. They also confirmed their support of the purchase of land in North Medford upon which to build a new facility.
Sheriff Nathan Sickler is optimistic about the new developments. “Building a jail is a long process,” he said, “But it is an important one for our community. We will continue to move forward and do everything possible to provide much-needed relief to our local justice system as soon as possible.”
The proposed location for a new jail is in an undeveloped area south of East Vilas Road, between Highway 62 and the future Rogue Valley Expressway. The county is using general fund reserves to make the $6.6 million purchase.
In March 2018, the county conducted a citizen survey that showed taxpayers were not willing to support a property tax levy to build a facility to house 1,000 inmates at a cost of $1.09/$1000 of assessed value. Following the survey, the BOC asked County Administrator Danny Jordan and Sheriff Sickler to come up with a plan to build a new jail at a reduced burden to taxpayers. Since then, they have been working together on a creative solution with a lower overall cost.
Today, Jordan introduced a plan to propose a voter-supported service district with an estimated net cost to taxpayers of about half the previous amount. He said the county will be able to draw from general fund reserves in order to reduce the tax burden. Jordan also proposed potentially using the site of the current jail as a location for additional courtrooms to supplement the local justice system.
The estimated cost is believed to be sufficient to build and staff a jail that can house an estimated 750 inmates with infrastructure to expand in the future. Jordan said the final cost could be higher or lower, and will be adjusted in the coming months as the county receives updates on the real costs and funding sources.
The next step in the process is for a team of architects to develop and analyze plans for a proposed facility by the first week of December 2018. The county has contracted with DLR Group at a cost of $82,478 to help with the initial phases of the project, with consideration to design, capacity, programs, staffing model, and cost analysis. Expanding mental health and addiction services will be included in the cost analysis.
County officials will meet with DLR Group representatives at least twice over the next two months to acquire the initial plan and cost projections. This work is crucial – it will provide a more precise and realistic estimate of the costs to build and operate a new jail.
Several additional steps must be completed to get the district funding on the November 2019 ballot. County officials will meet with local city officials to request consent to participate in the taxing district. Multiple public hearings will be held in the summer of 2019 to allow for public input. The County must file multiple orders and notices publicly and with state and county authorities. If voters agree, construction on a new jail could begin sooner than previously expected.
Sheriff Sickler says there are still a lot of variables that could affect the timing of the process, “but things are moving in the right direction.”
Sheriff Sickler will continue to speak to community groups about the jail expansion project. Groups interested in learning more about the current system and proposed changes can call (541) 770-8923 to schedule a presentation.