New Greene County Jail Construction Budget Increases Almost 80 Million Dollars

On the same day the Greene County Jail’s population reached a record number of inmates, the Greene County Commission drilled down on the budget related to construction of a new Greene County Jail.

The budget for the jail is significantly increasing from the estimated 70 million dollars that voters approved in two ballot measures. The advanced team working on the jail’s design has found a way for the Sheriff’s Office to manage the facility in a manner that will require less staff than would be needed under the original or current design; this would save over 95 million dollars from operations over twenty years. (Because of the construction layout of the current jail facility, the new operational structure cannot be used in that building.)

The resulting savings from the change in operational procedures will allow the Commission to begin looking at a 150 million dollar budget for the jail located off the Greene County campus site, an increase of at least 80 million dollars.

The budget discussions by County Commissioners and county officials also included discussions of others ways to bring in revenue to offset the cost of the jail’s construction, including potential cuts to the Sheriff’s department budget or redirecting of additional income to the Sheriff’s office to the jail. In one example, a possible re-routing of revenue included taking additional revenue generated from housing some federal prisoners toward the jail rather than the Sheriff’s office budget.

Any changes to operations in the Sheriff’s department because of funding cuts or other changes would be determined solely by the Sheriff, who made it clear to the Commission that he would not cut units such as the fugitive apprehension unit.

“I hope the public will see that we’re looking at the whole thing, not just certain areas,” Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon said.  “We’re also trying to be mindful and respectful of what the previous commission put before the voters.  We respect the will of the voters.”

“My preference is that we would look for items that improve the overall flow of criminal justice,” Dixon added.

The Commission is looking at a jail that would have between 1154 and 1226 beds, depending on the final design of the facility. If the proposed designs from contractors come in under budget, the Commission might consider adding additional beds to the facility.

The additional beds, if any, could be used to allow other counties to house their prisoners and generate additional revenue for the County, although Sheriff Arnott warned that municipalities in the County would likely want to host their prisoners and previous Commissions did not charge the municipalities for housing those prisoners.

Additional funds to offset costs based on the budget were also found in places like the trunked radio system for the county, which appears to be coming in at 25% less than budgeted costs after discussions with City Utilities.

“I don’t think we can give enough thanks to the advanced team [who found the new jail management plan.],” Commissioner Harold Bengsch said. “We all appreciate your hard work.”

The Commissioners made it clear that their priority at the end of the process is building the best facility to serve the county’s needs at the least cost to the taxpayer, and noted that at this stage in development overall costs are more vague than when they are much closer to final jail design.

“We obviously need to prioritize what we want to accomplish,” Dixon said.  “I’d love to solve all the problems, but that’s not possible.  Everyone knows we only have a certain amount of money.”