Jail study site recommendation deserves review

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Now, it seems very natural that the Community Hospital campus is located north and west of East 11th and H Streets, and that the McCook Junior High-Senior High property is situated between West Seventh and Tenth streets.

But, when the hospital and school were constructed, citizens of the McCook area had to grow accustomed to vastly different sites than had served them in previous years.

For many years in the past, the community's health care needs had been served by St. Catherine's Hospital, located on West Fourth Street, between L and M, while the junior-senior high school was on West F, between First and Second streets.

The school and hospital location changes -- and their impact on the community -- come to mind because of the site recommendations for the city-county jail and the public safety center.

Although there had been earlier talk of sites in northern McCook for the jail and safety center, it was not known until Tuesday night that the sites on West Q were favored.

Largely because of the amount of land -- with up to 28 1/2 acres available -- the sites favored by the jail study task force are either the Claude Cappel site north of West 10th and Q, or the northwest portion of the Red Willow County Fairgrounds.

It will be a while -- perhaps even months -- before the Red Willow County Commissioners decide whether to put a jail and/or safety center proposal on the ballot, and -- as part of that plan -- to determine a location.

But, it's good that members of the jail study task force went public with their site recommendation at this time. By making their site choice -- based on a point system -- the task force opens their recommendation to public scrutiny. Now, the public can comment pro and con about the advantages and disadvantages of having the jail and/or safety center located either on the fairgrounds, or across the road from the fairgrounds to the north.

What is best? Will those locations best serve the long-term jail and safety center needs of the community? It's time for members of the public to express their views, as a decision is drawing near about placing the jail issue on the ballot.

As we have learned from placement of the school and hospital, site decisions can have a long-lasting impact on community life. In the near future, we should know whether a new jail and/or safety center will be built, and, if so, where it will be located.

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