Allamakee County Public Safety Committee shares its findings (final part of a three-part series)

It is only a matter of time before the current Allamakee County jail will be closed. As presented in the first two parts of this series, there is no repair or remodeling that can be done to bring the facility into compliance with code requirements.
The Allamakee County Public Safety Committee has concluded that the only alternative to building a  new facility is to house prisoners in other jails. This means that any person arrested anywhere in the county would have to be driven to another jail facility. This could mean driving to Decorah, West Union, Clayton County or further and the officer(s) would be off the street for the period of time it takes to drive there, book the arrestee and drive back. City police departments would be responsible for transporting their own arrestees to the nearest available jail, while the Allamakee County Sheriff’s Department would be responsible its own arrestees as well as transportation to and from court proceedings and for work release. Aside from the financial cost, the transportation aspect of housing prisoners out of county would be a logistical nightmare that would ultimately result in fewer peace officers on patrol.
Northland Securities, the financial consultant hired to assist the County, has calculated that if the County were to issue bonds for the maximum amount allowed of $4.9 million (assuming the bond referendum is approved), the annual payment would be $354,000. Adding in the minimal increase in operating costs of the new facility, the total anticipated annual increase in the jail’s budget would be around $400,000.
Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick has estimated that the cost of housing prisoners outside the county would be approximately $450,000 annually the first year and that amount would increase as the number of prisoners increases and with inflation. This projected cost increase includes the hiring of five new transport officers, transportation costs and housing costs ($50 to $100 per day, per prisoner). After 20 years, the annual cost of housing prisoners out of county would likely exceed $800,000 annually.
If the County were to construct the proposed facility, after that same 20-year period the County would be making its final payment on the loan and the jail’s operating budget would decrease to just the cost of operating the facility. The new jail, designed to serve the County’s needs for 75-100 years, would be fully paid for.
Voters in Allamakee County are being asked to make choice this November - to agree to fund the construction of a new jail facility or to allow the current facility to close and house our prisoners out of county. Housing our prisoners outside of the county is not only much more expensive than building our own facility, it would also result in hundreds of thousands of Allamakee County tax dollars leaving Allamakee County every year. Construction of a new facility would generate a short-term economic boom in the County and keep our tax dollars here, now and into the future.
The Allamakee County Sheriff and the Public Safety Committee have concluded that this $4.9 million project is the most fiscally responsible course of action in light of the inevitable closure of the current jail facility. If the bond referendum fails this November, the committee will continue its efforts to educate the public about the need for a new jail facility and ask voters to reconsider in March of 2015.

Members of the Allamakee County Public Safety Committee: Kris Ward, Clark Mellick, Kris Kovarik, Rev Lonning, Natasha Wilkes, Ardie Kuhse, Mike Kruckenberg, Tim Bulman, Chris Fee, Laura Olson, Carol Jeglum, Dan Cole Sr., Glen Jevne