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County won't be rushed into jail project

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

McCOOK, Nebraska -- Red Willow County commissioners Monday morning declined to participate with the City of McCook on a new law enforcement facility.

"The city wants an answer by their (City Council) meeting Monday," said commission chairman Earl McNutt, but neither he nor fellow commissioner Steve Downer felt that gave them enough time to decide whether the county wants to place a jail in the new law enforcement facility proposed by the city.

"We're not prepared at this time to move forward," on a county jail like voters rejected in November 2006, McNutt said.

Commissioner Leigh Hoyt said he didn't feel he's had enough time or information to vote -- yes or no -- on Downer's motion not to cooperate with the county on a jail. "It's really premature to make a decision now," Hoyt said. "We need to sit down with the city."

No one from the city attended the commissioners' meeting Monday, which befuddled McNutt. McNutt said he attended a City Council meeting and a special meeting regarding the proposed law enforcement facility, but emphasized that while he has received a couple of e-mails from McCook Mayor Dennis Berry about the county cooperating on a project, he would have thought commissioners would get a formal request and more information or discussion, possibly at the meeting Monday morning.

Sheriff Gene Mahon said he's very concerned that the city may build a law enforcement/fire department facility without a jail or holding cells.

"If the city builds a facility with no jail, we're going to need more staff to haul (prisoners) 24/7," Mahon said, explaining that the county now uses the city's holding cells to house prisoners for at the longest 96 hours, or before transferring them for longer periods of time to jails in Trenton, Oberlin, Curtis, Lexington or Holdrege.

Mahon said he'd rather have a 15-bed facility than nothing. The election in 2006 proposed a 30-bed jail, but Mahon said Monday they could still haul overflow prisoners out-of-town if they had more than 15 prisoners.

Mahon said some days they have up to 20 prisoners, "but that's not the norm. Fifteen beds are better than what we've got now," he said. The county itself has no jail facility, but every prisoner -- whether arrested by city police or county sheriff or deputy -- is, by law, the responsibility of the county, which must provide/pay for incarceration.

McNutt mused, "We don't know now what it'd cost to run a jail. Hauling prisoners may be the cheapest way to go, even if it's not the safest."

The liability of transporting prisoners worries Mahon. "We've been hauling prisoners since 1983, and we haven't had any accidents and only one escape," he said, but he's concerned about county liability in the event of either incident.

Mahon said the need to transport prisoners would not be eliminated if the county took over operation of the city's 96-hour holding cells. "We wouldn't gain anything," Mahon said. "We'd still have to provide 24-hour staffing, and we'd still have to haul prisoners" who require incarceration beyond 96 hours.

Mahon said the property that the county owns north of the courthouse may be sufficient for a 15-bed facility, and then courthouse security wouldn't be as compromised as it would be if the sheriff's department moved into the city's former public safety center.

Neither property north of the courthouse was purchased specifically to build a jail onto or next door to the courthouse, McNutt said. "We don't know what courthouse expansion we may need in the future," he said. "The courthouse itself is in good shape; it's going to be here for a long time."

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The county commissioners not ready for a jail is the biggest joke yet...This has been discussed/voted/studies for a decade at least how long do they need??? Voters should replace our novice money loaning/backward thinking 3 amigos that want to continue to make other surrounding counties rich off taking our prisoners at hilton hotel rates and now sent millions of our tax dollars in last decade to surrounding counties and all laughing at us every year and thanking for the budget windfall...maybe our guys will loan frontier county money to build a jail?? or spaceship repair shop like the helecopter dude sold them on ?? .......time for 3 new commissioners with McCook city/county concerns and ready to finally do something right.

-- Posted by Cornwhisperer on Tue, May 11, 2010, at 12:49 PM

I thought the County already had their building. Wasn't that the purpose of buying the house next door? Seems to me that I agree...the County shouldn't team up with the City. They've already got it planned...if they'd ever do anything about it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


McNutt said if the county jail issue is revisited, he does not see it as a joint county/city facility. "We'd be looking at a stand-alone county facility," he said, and it should be built onto the courthouse.

Although McNutt said the right time for the county to build a jail isn't "today or tomorrow," it's possible that over the next couple years -- as taxpayers get McCook water debts paid down and pay down debts on the new McCook elementary and the new Southwest junior-senior high school building -- the county may again broach the subject of a jail.

New county building has 'plenty of plumbing'

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The county bought it for the purpose of constructing a future county jail or for courthouse expansion, with money from the county's county jail /correctional complex sinking fund.

-- Posted by Rural Citizen on Tue, May 11, 2010, at 1:24 PM

Commissioners, please do not make the City the "bad guys" again. Since 2006 and before the jail has been discussed. The commissioners received special invites to the city meetings on new facilities. The commissioners meeting was for commissioners. To my knowledge the city did not receive invitations to attend the commissioners meeting and even if they went,it was the commissioners that needed to decide. It was also my understanding that in addition to emails there has been face to face meetings and calls plus the invitations to attend the city meetings. Communication cuts both ways. Just do not blame the city for decisions made or not made by the county.

-- Posted by dennis on Tue, May 11, 2010, at 1:32 PM

Way to go, County Commissioners! Just pretend that if you don't build a jail, you won't have to worry about housing the people who your own officers arrest...good fiscal prudence!

What are you basing your decision to "wait and see" on? And that comment about "...hauling prisoners may be the cheapest way to go, even if it's not the safest." Good Lord! Yeah, let's go ahead and keep doing the "cheapest, if not the safest" thing, then when an inmate gets hurt or killed in a car wreck while being 'hauled' to and from another jail, his/her family can OWN the county after taking all 3 commissioners to court for being quoted as acknowleging your methods aren't the safest.

Brilliant move, gentlemen...

-- Posted by Justin Case on Tue, May 11, 2010, at 1:59 PM

I personally don't think the County should go in with the City. Why should they? The City can't even make a decision. How long, how many plans and how much dollars have been spent already on drawing up plans and changing minds? Seems to me that the County should just build their jail as they originally planned when the purchased the house next door.

Dennis, I didn't think a City Councilman would need an "invitation" to attend a public meeting? Seems to me that you just didn't make time or just assumed the County would go with? Don't make this out to be the County's problem since the City can't make a decision.

-- Posted by Rural Citizen on Tue, May 11, 2010, at 4:20 PM

Rural, just saying the city did invite the county along. Also disagree with you on a decision by the city. The city looked at several options, had public meetings, had estimates on costs and have made a decisions to not go with a remodel of West Ward or the armory. Now they are asking the public for funding options. The city seems to be the ones moving on the issue. Would you be complaining if the city had not looked at all the options and gotten various cost estimates? Just saying the county should not blame the city. The city is not blaming the county. It does no good for the two of them to point fingers at the other.

-- Posted by dennis on Tue, May 11, 2010, at 6:20 PM

How about a little bit of money spent to see how much it would cost/save to bring these two groups together on a joint center? Each could run their own facilities while still saving the city/county taxpayers money. What is it going to take to get these two groups together?

-- Posted by MRswNebr on Tue, May 11, 2010, at 6:21 PM

When is it going to end? It seems to me that the City wants to move and the county is still stirred over the last failure of their jail so they are going to do everything they can to derail the City's project. They seem to be upset about the City not being at the meeting to represent themselves and they are squaking because the City wants an answer yet they seem to have their own plan and they're not sharing that with anyone. Even though I'm out of state, I do have a couple of questions that some of you locals can try to address. First is who's money did they use to buy the property by the courthouse? If its the taxpayers money shouldn't the taxpayers be told what the intention is with the purchase? In Weld County, Colorado (where I reside) we have five commissioners who are very progressive. None of them are employed by the county. I do believe that if any of them become employed by the county, they must resign as a commissioner. How can a commissioner represent the county, vote on (his) own budget and vote on (his) own pay increase? I agree with Jlake, maybe its time for McCook and Red Willow county to get some new caring individuals who are willing to work with the City and not on their private agendas to get something accomplished. Just wondering???...

-- Posted by McCook Supporter on Tue, May 11, 2010, at 8:00 PM

Let me ask you this...we've all had to tighten our belts. Taxpayers alike have had to not update their homes, not go on a vacation, not buy new clothes, etc. because of the economic situation. Why doesn't this apply to everyone? Why do the taxpayers have to tighten even more, sacrifice more, just so the City has a new place to hang their hat? I agree that SOMEDAY we need to update, but is now the right time when the taxpayers are still struggling to get caught up?

-- Posted by Rural Citizen on Wed, May 12, 2010, at 8:34 AM

Rural, let me answer your question on how we will know if now is the right time to update. The taxpayers will vote. The city has said that since the start of the process.

-- Posted by dennis on Wed, May 12, 2010, at 11:07 AM

I agree with Mccook Supporter. Maybe it's time for a change in leadership. Maybe it's time to have a City Council think about the economic situation of others instead of wanting, wanting, wanting their own agendas. People stop and think before you vote....DO WE REALLY NEED THIS?

-- Posted by Rural Citizen on Wed, May 12, 2010, at 11:56 AM

Regardless of whether the two entities act together or not, the longer they wait the more it will cost. The last time the Army Airbase was used as a reason not pursue anything. Now some cite the economy. North Platte, Kearney and Grand Island have all built new county jails and/or law enforcement centers within the last couple of years. Eventually someone will need to make a decision.

A reasonably sized county facility (12-15 beds with room to expand later if needed) connected to the courthouse seems the appropriate way to go for a jail. This would be the best fit for location for court appearances and security since the buildings could be attached.

As for the comment "Hauling prisoners may be the cheapest way to go, even if it's not the safest" is just ridiculous. It is easy to say that when you are not the one doing the hauling. And if something ever happens to a prisoner or deputy, chances are it will not be the cheapest way to go.

-- Posted by bntheredunthat on Wed, May 12, 2010, at 3:57 PM

I think the city snd county officials need to be locked in a room untill they come up with a plan. The leadership isnt there a change may be needed on both boards.

-- Posted by big32bubba on Sat, May 15, 2010, at 7:34 AM

Big, there is a plan. The city plans to ask the voters to move on new facilities. The County has planned on not joining with the city at this time. This may not be the plan you want but it is a plan. Also remember it was not long ago that the voters of both the city and county said no to a joint facility.

-- Posted by dennis on Wed, May 19, 2010, at 10:33 AM

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