SHEFFIELD — Members of the Bureau County Board attended Monday’s Sheffield Village Board meeting to educate residents about the upcoming jail referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The proposition asks voters for a one-half percent sales tax increase to design and construct a $12.3 million law enforcement center in the former Bureau County Republican building at 800 Ace Road in Princeton.
During a presentation in public comment session, county board member Connie Stetson, R-Neponset, said the tax comes with a 20-year sunset clause and will not impact prescriptions, vehicles, farm equipment, groceries, non prescriptions, medical devices and medical material.
Stetson said the current jail is not safe for inmates, deputies and staff.
“The current jail is dangerous and not compliant with life safety codes,” she said, adding there are not enough beds for inmates and the building is a fire hazard and has plumbing issues that create sewage leaks in the basement.
Stetson explained while there are 33 beds in Bureau County Jail, it can only hold 20 inmates because of classification regulations that require the county to separate inmates based on 13 different classifications. Plus, one has to factor in that there are male and females inmates and another regulation prevents male and females from seeing or hearing one another.
These regulations have forced Bureau County to turn to LaSalle County for help on housing inmates in their jail.
Stetson said Bureau County is currently housing 20 inmates in LaSalle County at a cost of $30 per inmate a day, which adds up to $11,000 a year per inmate or $220,000 annually.
However, Stetson said Bureau County Sheriff Jim Reed just got word last week that LaSalle County Jail is reaching its maximum and can’t house any more inmates from Bureau County at this time.
“Now we must go to other counties to see if they can take inmates. We learned that one inmate had to go to Putnam County, and we have not heard how much we’re getting charged for that one because it just happened,” she said.
Plus, LaSalle County is only giving the $30-a-day-per-inmate deal until the end of the year. Stetson said after this year, the rate could increase up to anywhere between $70 and $90 per inmate a day, which could increase housing expenses to $660,000 annually. Aside from the cost to house the inmates, it costs Bureau County $1,900 a month to transport the inmates. Stetson said these costs will add up to an additional $22,800 annually of deputy time and travel, plus maintenance on vehicles.
Stetson said studies have shown renovations costs of the jail would be higher than the cost to construct a new facility. The Bureau County Board purchased the former Bureau County Republican building for $725,000 earlier this year and saved the county $3 million with already having a building and parking area, according to Stetson.
Stetson urged residents to schedule a jail tour, which will be available up until the election. She also encouraged residents to visit the county’s website and Facebook page for more information about the referendum.