To the editor:
What new jail option will we see next?
A new jail has been talked about and debated for at least six years, but only since the beginning of 2021 has it really seemed to start to become a reality. If anyone has followed the news articles, the Commissioners have been working to try and make it happen. But as of late, it appears there is no direction other than a chaotic one.
Early in the talks of a new jail, we thought we would get a new stand-alone facility, but on the 13th of April, 2021, the DeKalb County Commissioners presented two options for a new jail. Option A was for a stand-alone facility, and Option B was to re-purpose and remodel the new two-year-old Community Corrections/Work Release Center. A lot of people that attended that meeting voiced their opinion against Option B, with valid reasons and facts.
Jump ahead to the 26th of April when an evening meeting was held in the White Room in the basement of the Annex to allow more people to attend who otherwise would not be able to due to work or other issues.
At this meeting, a new third option was presented by Commissioner Sanderson. That option being to do nothing and not build a new jail. Commissioner Sanderson also stated that Option B was no longer an option and was off the table. WHAT? What is going on?
Many people were given an opportunity to speak or ask questions and the general consensus was that we need a new jail and understood that a tax increase would likely follow the decision to build. Commissioner Watson gave a report that was put together by the firm Baker Tilly, a leading advisory, tax and assurance firm on what that tax increase could possibly mean. As the report was given, everyone sat quietly and listened trying to absorb the information.
When Commissioner Watson was finished, the other two Commissioners began to question the numbers put together by professionals in the report. From the viewpoint of the onlookers, it was not a pretty sight as they debated the numbers given.
The new jail discussion has been kicked down the road for so long, I don’t think there is anything left to kick. DeKalb County needs a new jail, end of discussion. A new jail will not be any cheaper to build than it is today. For every month we wait to build, it is estimated that construction costs rise $100,000.
There is currently a compelling need for a new, larger facility. County Commissioners should focus on explaining this need to their fellow citizens rather than repeatedly trying to pare back plans for a new a jail in order to satisfy skeptical voters.
Being frugal with the public’s money is a good quality in elected officials. Shortchanging a needed public project, however, is sometimes the least frugal choice.
It has been a roller-coaster ride since January and it continues to be. Will DeKalb County get a new jail or not? Will there be a fourth or fifth option? Tune in next week to find out.