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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Retired judge favors new site for county jail

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Retired Red Willow County, Nebraska, county judge Cloyd Clark tells county commissioners Monday morning he prefers that a county jail be located across the street southwest of the courthouse rather than north of the courthouse because of the proximity of "Heritage Square" historical properties on Norris Avenue. Behind Clark is the north elevation of the proposed jail.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
McCOOK, Nebraska -- Retired Red Willow County, Nebraska, county judge Cloyd Clark admitted to county commissioners Monday morning that he knows it's late in the process, but he recommends that a county jail be built on lots in the 400 block of West First rather than on Norris Avenue.

Knowing the historic properties located on Norris Avenue, Clark said, commissioners would be better off building a jail elsewhere, and suggested lots owned by attorneys Burger and Bennett south of the McCook Daily Gazette newspaper office rather than north of the courthouse.

The distance to the courthouse from lots southwest of the courthouse "is not that big a deal," he told commissioners, who are studying the possibility of locating the jail north of the courthouse specifically because they're close to the courthouse and courtrooms.

The law offices of Burger and Bennett huddle in this morning's heavy fog.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
Clark admitted to Dorwin Felker, a rural McCook resident who attends many commissioners' meeting, that, no, a West First location would not be attached to the courthouse, but neither is the proposed Norris Avenue location. The proposed 24-bed jail and law enforcement facility north of the courthouse is designed with future expansion in mind and with the possibility of a future connection to the courthouse.

Clark said that there is "no indication of problems" from attorney Pete Burger whose office and parking lot are located on one of the lots on which Clark suggests the jail be built, and that their purchase might be less of a problem than the Hepp site, which is two apartment houses that remain north of the courthouse.

The West First location would also require the acquisition of a City of McCook parking lot and a private property.

Clark presented to commissioners a "Heritage Square" brochure which describes a walking tour of historic properties on Norris Avenue, including the Norris Park band shell, the Senator George W. Norris house, the McCook home of Nebraska senator Ben Nelson, the private home of Jan and Van Korell which was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Carnegie Library and Museum of the High Plains and the Historic Fox Theater.

County clerk Pauletta Gerver told Judge Clark that the proposed jail and law enforcement facility is "a beautiful building" that will be there for many, many years. "Who know what else might be (located) there?" she asked Clark.

Clark suggested that the lots that the county have already purchased would make a "lovely park" or parking. "It's not a wasted effort to pick up these properties," he said.

Clark also encouraged commissioners to let voters decide if they want to finance and build a jail. "We do need a jail facility, and voters will see that," he said.

Commission chairman Earl McNutt said that state legislation allows commissioners to build a jail -- within certain spending limitations -- without an election. Clark reiterated, "(A jail) is a definite need. Trust the voters."

McNutt told Clark that if voters turned down a jail, the county would be have limited options even for 96-hour holding cells as the new city municipal facility (under construction now on West Fifth) does not include any jail or holding cells.

"Respect the community, and ask the voters," Clark said.

Commissioner Vesta Dack said it would be wise for the county to take advantage of reasonable construction costs now, and McNutt said that interest rates are about as low as they're likely to go.

Gerver said specific timelines required for a special election have passed, and commissioners would need a resolution by March for the May election.

Steven Riley of Prochaska & Associates, the Omaha architectural firm hired by the county to present schematic designs and floor plans, said that the county could lose a start of construction in 2012 if commissioners waited for the results of an election.

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