Letter to the Editor

People deserve to vote

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dear Editor,

To begin, I would like to express my admiration for Don Neel. While others sit on the sidelines, Don had the courage to speak out in Wednesday's Gazette with his opinions about me and the jail issue.

That's the American way. Fortunately, in our nation, we have the freedom to express our opinions. That's as it should be, because when we engage in public discussion we can provide various viewpoints about issues, helping citizens and our elected leaders determine what the best course of action is for our communities, our counties, our state and our nation.

Concerning the jail and the jail site, my personal opinion is that the proposal put forth by the Red Willow County Commissioners is too expensive and does not serve the best long-term interests of the county and its citizens.

I fear, if the project is allowed to go forward, that it will put a serious strain on county finances, and could force cutbacks in future years in other needed county services such as road maintenance, and the clerk, treasurer, assessor, county court, and yes, even the sheriff's department.

Why do I say that? Look at what is proposed. To start with, the Red Willow County Commission is asking the citizens of Red Willow County to spend more than $5 million to build a new jail.

And then, on top of that, they are asking that we, the citizens of Red Willow County spend several hundred thousand dollars per year to operate the jail. I have not heard how much the operating expenses will be all together, but I do know that we will have to pay salaries and fringe benefits for a jail staff of 10. This is based on three shifts of two jailers for every day of the year, plus a relief and support staff of four additional jail employees. I don't know what the average salary, with fringes, will be, but I'm guessing it will be in excess of $25,000 for each employee.

That's just the start of annual jail operating expenses. In addition, the county will have the responsibility of feeding the jail population (which has been estimated to average 8 to 10 persons per day). That cost will add up quickly, because the county will have to provide three meals a day for every prisoner every day of the year. If the jail prisoner average is 10 on a year-around basis, that will mean more than 10,000 meals a year.

In addition to the jail staff and the meals for prisoners, there are a number of other jail operating expenses, including laundry, emergency medical care, electricity, heat, water, counseling, legal services and housekeeping supplies.

When all the expenses are added together, the total will be well over $400,000 per year, and could escalate higher in the future due to inflation.

The jail is not a necessity for Red Willow County. This is shown by the practices followed by the county during the past 20 years when Red Willow County prisoners have been housed in the jails located in Hitchcock and Frontier counties in Nebraska and Decatur County in Kansas. This is a much more economical method than the $5 million jail cost, plus the annual jail operating expenses, proposed by the Red Willow County Commissioners.

For purposes of efficiency and economy, the county could provide jail space at a cost far below the $5 million cost by remodeling the City of McCook holding cells which were inspected and approved for another year of use Feb. 8, 2012, by Nebraska Jail Standards' officials.

I may be right. I may be wrong. But I do know one thing for sure. As a citizen of Red Willow County, I deserve the right to vote on the jail question and so does Mr. Neel and all the other good citizens of this county. I appeal to the Commissioners of Red Willow County to allow us that right.

Thank you for letting me have my say.

Respectfully submitted,

Gene O. Morris,


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  • Gene,

    Did the citizens get to vote before the city spent millions on a water treatment plant that was just a controversial?

    Get on with your legal action and really muddy the waters.

    Your right Gene, stick the county in a building that wasn't good enough for the city.

    I suggest that both you and Dale Dueland run for county commissioner and see just how many votes you would get.

    Of course the new city building was really voter approved after all of the games they played to get the project too far down the road to turn it around.

    -- Posted by Todd Cappel on Fri, Apr 13, 2012, at 2:01 PM
  • Obviously Gene is going to vote against the bond outside the state limit. He really didn't do anything in this article to correct his false statements that Mr. Neel addressed. He really only double down on the same information. I really don't understand how Mr. Dueland and Mr. Morris became such experts in prisoner cost over the past few months. To listen to them, they have been evaluating county jails their entire careers. Both men have dismissed two jail study commissions and the county hired consultants because they disagree with the outcome of building this facility on Norris.

    -- Posted by Todd Cappel on Fri, Apr 13, 2012, at 2:17 PM
  • I have noticed that there are lots of guesses and opinions when Gene and Dale start talking. I will trust the commissoners, consultants and the jail study commission. You know Gene and Dale you can get a good look at a t-bone by sticking your head up a steers..........but I bet you'd rather take the butchers word on it.

    -- Posted by plainsman on Fri, Apr 13, 2012, at 5:28 PM
  • why shouldn't we be allowed to vote to build the jail rather than just pay for it.

    I have read quotes from the commissioners stating how much support they are getting in the form of emails and phone calls. Sounds like the commissioners are confident. So let us vote.

    At this time the commissioners have decided to build a jail they cannot afford without cutting service or us paying more taxes. This is stated in the commissioners own brochure produced to tout the jail vote.

    I think we need to vote on the actual construction, not just how to pay for it.

    Come on commissioners... trust your voters,you say you have the support... let us vote.

    -- Posted by boojum666 on Fri, Apr 13, 2012, at 6:17 PM
  • Why don't we let the future inmates vote on it since we are building it for them. Taj Mahal for them and our increased taxes are going to pay for it. Build it in the country and make it a simple building, not a showpiece to house inmates. The only added comforts should be for the jail staff and the other officers.

    -- Posted by Pigman1 on Fri, Apr 13, 2012, at 9:32 PM
  • With a declining population , it seems to make sense to spend lots of money. If we spends lots of money and amass huge debt, the property taxes will go up and fewer people will find the area desirable. Which is really good since apparenty almost no one finds it desirable when the taxes are average or low. Let's spend so much money on stuff that we keep everyone out. Then we can create an ever spiraling down of population and a greater debt per person. This actually makes a lot of sense. I think in addition to putting a prison "on the bricks" , we should find many more things to spend money on. We should just keep the ball rolling. More government money for more stuff. How can anyone argue with such a thing? Just raise taxes and raise taxes higher and higher.

    -- Posted by bob s on Sat, Apr 14, 2012, at 10:26 PM
  • Bob, I have attempted to back off this topic as the comments seem to be driven by emotion rather than with a civil tone, yours not withstanding.

    I will have to say that to assume that the population of McCook and Southwest Nebraska will continue to decline is greatly short sited. With that mentality, why maintain the streets, or invest in business or schools of any sort?

    The current condition of the United States only makes Rural America that much more appealing. I don't believe lack of interest in this area is due to high taxes.... I lived in New York City and paid an up to 18% tax on entertainment items.... Oddly, the population was not in a decline.

    The cold hard fact is this, people today require fun and enjoyment, something that is not found at a drop of a hat in this area, but when the rubber meets the road, job security, safety, and level income is what keeps food on the table and families together, not the nightly outing opportunities that a metropolitan areas offer.

    I believe what is happening here in McCook, is that we are striving to create an appealing area without compromising the values that IS Southwest Nebraska.

    Again, building a jail is probably not a bad idea, but a vote by the supportive public would certainly silence this debate.

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Sun, Apr 15, 2012, at 8:29 PM
  • The population is declining. A fact. Also , if you look at some of the other small towns in nebraska and how high their property taxes are, you can see that high property taxes are a huge factor in their inability to attract new people. There does not seem to be much of a rush to rural america and people are much more economically motivated than you think.

    -- Posted by bob s on Mon, Apr 16, 2012, at 12:18 PM
  • Economics 101.... Unemployment in metro areas based on percentages is higher than in McCook I assure you, ask any business person in McCook and they will tell you that they can't fill positions. If unemployment directly effects ones income.... And I believe it does, then a migration toward jobs is imminent. How long can one last in a non employment job market? Ask some of the folks moving from Colorado to good old Southwest NE how we rank here and they'll tell you that they can't believe the low cost of living. Sure the wages are lower.... But the lower wage in a low cost of living area is euphoria compared to unemployment in a high cost of living area.

    Bob, you don't seem to be a big fan of McCook from the comments you have posted, perhaps you should try your hand at seeking employment in one of those "low taxed communities" that all the people are gravitating to and post your comments from there. Brag a little bit on how you found the greener grass and the lower taxes with the endless job opportunities and safe neighborhoods.

    You could end you comment with: "This is BobS, signing off, from Never Never land where the unicorns run free and so do the property taxes!"

    This is Nick Mercy, signing off from The Land of Reality, where it takes effort and sacrifice to reap the benefits of your sweat.

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Mon, Apr 16, 2012, at 5:52 PM
  • The population is declining and has been doing so for a long time. High property taxes would most likely deter any increase in population. To take the position that higher property taxes would help to bring in people would be ridiculous. So would the idea that it would have no effect at all.

    -- Posted by bob s on Mon, Apr 16, 2012, at 9:03 PM
  • *

    Two things in life are certain...your taxes will go higher; and your taxes will go higher.

    The cost of operating a jail might seem daunting to some folks around here; but then, on another page of the gazette there are comments lamenting the presence (or lack thereof) of enough law enforcement within the community. Think how that presence will increase once the sheriff's deputies are able to be on patrol and respond to calls as opposed to transporting criminals to yon county(ies).

    -- Posted by Mickel on Mon, Apr 16, 2012, at 9:59 PM
  • maybe 22 miles of road to patrol would be easy enough if they weren't slowed down by all the donuts they shoveled in their face.

    if you see the same car driving around late at night, maybe take down a plate # incase you need to get more information of the owner later.

    its not rocket science, no need to put the public to work on this, just do what your paid to do.

    -- Posted by BTWinecleff on Mon, Apr 16, 2012, at 11:34 PM
  • BT..... Do you even read what article you're commenting on? I think you're a few articles off here.

    Your words above, speak volumes about your intellect.

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Tue, Apr 17, 2012, at 9:03 PM
  • mr perfect has spoke. you posted on the wrong page to nick. how smart does that make you?

    -- Posted by BTWinecleff on Thu, Apr 19, 2012, at 8:48 AM
  • Voters already have spoken by election process by electing the commissioners and they are doing their job. Its just to bad that some spout factless claims like the state or feds would pay to use the jail if in a different location some always like to manipulate the process after the facts.

    If your want to vote on everything that is spent locally from mowing budget to jails you need to run for county or city offices and put the time in that allow such things to be voted on weekly or monthly.

    Congrats to all area elected officials involved in improving old/aged infrastucture such as schools,city offices,streets,parks,ballfields and jail that elected have to make tough decisions to spend money or end up with nothing like some past officials did 20-30 years ago. Now current day taxpayers are forced to do extra improvements that should have been done long ago in many areas on a more regular basis. I just hope voters continue to look forward not backward in continuing to update all needed infrastructue in all public property and not when its already falling apart& beyond repair like all McCook schools was till recent updates or now the county jail. It was forced to close by state officiails vs updated to toss millions away to area jails and we still have nothing today.....Remember bottomline this same locaton right next to courthouse which served all area needs for past 100 plus years and only now is not a good location?

    -- Posted by Cornwhisperer on Thu, Apr 19, 2012, at 10:49 AM
  • *

    I recently heard some concern that the jail was being built by a school. I calmly encouraged the person to remember that the city jail was very close to West Ward school and that the old county jail is just as far from Central as the new one will be.

    The response was a thoughtful..."Oh, yeah."

    Good work commisioners.

    -- Posted by Mickel on Thu, Apr 19, 2012, at 10:36 PM
  • That misinformation that is common regarding this and other issues is what I was referring to in an earlier comment. It would be at the best interest of all involved in any case, unless 1 side is attempting to conceal.

    I hear that the county meetings are publicly open but not everyone concerned can make those meetings, therefore, I suggest a report of the happenings be publicly offered much the way the City Council and School Board meetings are. A regular report and perhaps additional articles when needed, which fully details the content of meetings. If that is too much to offer, then expect continued misinformation to haunt the commissioners and other parties involved.

    These are solutions folks, do with it what you will.

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Fri, Apr 20, 2012, at 1:03 PM
  • Mr. Mercy is such an expert with what the city and school does, isn't he? Always quick to slam the elected county commissioners. With all of the knowledge that this individual possesses regarding both of these government bodies it really makes you wonder.

    By the way if you are really concerned about ethics, Mr. Mercy I would really like to hear your opinion on the current city council all being appointed at first by the mayor then elected as incumbents later. Those darn council members that were elected by the peoople just hardly ever seem to cut it with certain folks in power in McCook. This is something in our local government that I think needs to explored a little further for the past few years. Can you say open forum letter?

    Have fun with this one Nicky.

    -- Posted by Todd Cappel on Sat, Apr 21, 2012, at 6:14 AM
  • Todd..... I'm not even sure what I'm supposed to have fun with. You yourself are much the politician, speaking words without saying a thing, then wrapping up your comment as though you've dropped some grand revelation. Am I wrong for saying that if the commissioners don't want false information floating about on the street, they should have a full and open report of their commissioner's meetings? If I don't want someone to make assumptions about me, I throw out a "here's the facts" info pack. I have to do that with my employees every so often. It seems to keep the truth known and is much easier than trying to recover from assumed information.

    And just as a side note.... What about me "makes you wonder"? Do I really make you wonder or do I make you nervous?

    I make it my job to know a bit about much, which I DON'T gather from a 2nd hand person. In some cases I know much about certain items, because I talk to the people in the know, first hand.

    Todd, I have even spoken to you face to face about county topics in passing. I must say, the only way I have been able to achieve getting a digestible truth from people "in the know" is by those folks feeling comfortable speaking to me. Without my anonymity, I fear I would receive a skewed vantage point.... The realized, but unwritten agreement that I have with those at the School, City, County and even State is that I will not divulge my sources.

    So wonder as much as you wish Todd, my stance is this, Transparency regarding civil issues and public affairs is needed in order to make wise decisions. Without the entire picture laid out for all to see, there will be surprises lurking in the shadowed unknown. I believe you are attempting to make my solution look argumentative when indeed.... It is a reasonable path to resolution

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 12:13 AM
  • Nick,

    You are a joke because you sit in the shadows with your accusations. You obviously are biased to the workings of the city and feel all that they have done is civil and transparent. You cling to your anonymity like you are some righteous savior for the community. All for the sake of protecting a business or your so call sources. You can have this forum Mr. Mercy. It really isn't a level playing field to have a coward sucker punching you in the dark. That is is the problem with individuals like you. You love floating around in the dark waiting for the moment to strike and are afraid stand up for what you believe in the light of day. I'll continue to let my opinions be known and for those that disagree, that is just fine. I actually have people that I visit with face to face that disagree with me on issues such as this. I respect them for their opinions and the fact they a courageous enough to put their name behind it. So keep putting out your anonymous opinions and crawl around in the dark.

    -- Posted by Todd Cappel on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 6:41 AM
  • Please no shots at one another just focus on cost. Are the figures that Mr. Dueland presented about the cost of an inmate per day going from approx. $80 to over $200 witht he new facility? Will the share of the county budget for law enforcement more than double? PLease do not cloud the issue with other comments. Yes or No?

    -- Posted by dennis on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 10:36 AM
  • Sorry Dennis, I can't let this go.... I make decisions by means of tangible fact, not emotion. Todd obviously is quite emotional. I didn't sucker punch anyone, my question remains.... "Isn't transparency the best route?". If I offend you Todd, or anyone for that matter, I'm afraid that lends gravity toward the fact that you DON'T feel that transparency is the best route, and by extension, begs the question.... Why?

    Call me a coward, say I sit in the shadows.... There is 1 undeniable pink elephant that stands in the center of the room though, and that is the fact that I count only as a single vote. I make no decisions that effect anyone else in regard to this issue, but my opinion about transparency is hard to dodge, unless you simply ignore the question completely.

    Todd, I'm actually for the jail, as I don't live in that direct area, the location isn't worrisome to me, however, this isn't about me, its about the constituents of the county. In fact, the jail isn't what I'm even basing my comments on, its the fact that the Citizens of the county are paying for whatever the flavor of the day is, and I feel that their voice, also known as their vote, should be considered. If memory serves correctly, you have never been all about big government doing what they want with little regard for the people that make this Country what it is and yet..... You advocate a no vote decision. Can the commissioners push through a toxic dump site here in Red Willow Co without public input? Gets a bit easier to see the friction when you're opposed to decision that someone else make for you doesn't it?

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 1:19 PM
  • My comment was not about you Nick

    -- Posted by dennis on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 1:49 PM
  • Does anyone get the feeling the nick and dennis are talking to each other and they are the same person? This is spooky.

    -- Posted by Todd Cappel on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 3:17 PM
  • That seems reasonable to me. I think if everyone is honest with what their intentions are, there would be a cut and dry idea of what's going on in the peoples minds.

    Does the paper write articles on the county business? I have seen some write ups but I can't say that I've seen something the day following commissioner's meetings.

    Nick, not that I can see how it matters but maybe you will one day tell Todd who you are, even if you are Dennis. I think he would appreciate that. Other than that, you seem to be in tune with things so keep offering your opinions, I've found them to be on the mark most of the time.

    -- Posted by Sandra M on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 4:38 PM
  • "the nick". your going to give hime a big head todd. i can think of a title for him that kind of sounds like that.

    -- Posted by BTWinecleff on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 5:35 PM
  • BT, there are no flattering words that rhyme with Nick. I think you were being derogatory.

    I will say though, I do like the sound of "The Nick". Does that make me egotistic?

    Thanks Todd.

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 6:21 PM
  • peter parker, clark kent, bruce wayne and the nick. our masked heroes. no one knows who they are but tgey always show up in the nick of time and save the day.

    -- Posted by BTWinecleff on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 8:31 PM
  • The Nick makes some good points and although I don't always agree with his sometimes over the top ideas, I do enjoy his analogies. They help give a clear picture. What if thE county wanted to put something in that no one else wanted. Maybe a commissioner might wish to add a new county shop in because they have an investment in a metal building company. What would stop them from doing that I wonder.

    I'm not saying that the commissioners (any or all)stand to have any benefit from the new jail, but what if?

    I'm just asking is all.

    -- Posted by Sandra M on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 9:32 PM
  • Such arrogance. The Nick has displayed some unopposed ideas however. If one wishes to avoid being labeled a liar and a cheat, one merely needs to expose their honesty. Certainly there will always be opposition to any idea, but if they choose not to support their ideals with evidence (proof) of what they stand for, then that lack of substantial fact, speaks volumes in favor of their advisory's ideals.

    I have viewed several articles and attached comments and every time a poster asks a question that is avoided, I see a point being made for that of the posters side.

    We must remember though, that these blog pages are not an accurate cross section of the tax paying population. Very little weight is placed on the scale of justice through these type written pages, therefore, if you wish to make a true difference in favor of your ideals, then it will require much beyond an evening opinion posted to a blog to turn the cogs of society.

    So far as not liking the way the current public representatives handle issue goes, it must be clear that not standing in support for your ideals and waiting for a new set of officials is the quickest path to compliant destruction. One cannot set idly by in hopes for a brighter tomorrow for that day will never come by itself, it must be forced into existence. Once an issue is passed, the next generation of leaders will find it most difficult to undo what has readily been done.

    -- Posted by PensiveObserver on Tue, Apr 24, 2012, at 10:59 AM
  • PO, I wasn't trying to be arrogant, just joking on the whole "The Nick" thing. I do know what you mean when you refer to the "if you don't like the commissioners decisions don't vote for them next time" thing, being too late to act. Its the Citizen's responsibility to stand up and be counted when they don't feel as though they are being properly represented. People did that during the whole City Municipal Facility debate, just as it is being done with the jail.

    Todd, as far as transparency during the City Municipal Facility goes, I believe the City had 3 meetings regarding the old Westward School and proposed facility. They were announced in the paper as well as on the radio, and anyone could attend and be heard. There were also full write ups regarding the town hall meetings in the Gazette, and coverage on the radio. I believe that someone even sent in a letter because they could not attend. Then in the end, the City did what they promised they would do, and put it to vote.

    Were there misconceptions? Certainly, we're those misconceptions tabled? In some cases, when they were brought to the town hall meetings. Did everyone agree that it was the thing to do? No, but it wasn't speculated on, there were actual numbers attached to both sides and it was decided by majority rule that the facility would be built.

    See how that worked? The people decided.... It was neat and tidy and those that didn't vote for the new facility are free to curse those of us that did. In the end however, it was removed from the Councilmen's control and placed in our control.

    I should think that I would sleep better at night knowing that a majority of my constituents were backing my project.

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Tue, Apr 24, 2012, at 7:04 PM
  • the nick has spoken, again, and again. do you ever listen to yourself or do you just spout off. if you remember right, the facility barely passed at all. i would say it was far from a majority rule. don't be ignorant the nick.

    -- Posted by BTWinecleff on Tue, Apr 24, 2012, at 7:40 PM
  • BT, what exactly IS your definition of "ignorant"? You realize that anything over 50% is a majority rule, don't you?

    The City Municipal Facility isn't even the topic here.

    I'm not even sure what point you intend to make.

    As I read back.... I can't even be certain your comment was intended for this page.

    What do you think "ignorant" means again?

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Wed, Apr 25, 2012, at 5:30 PM
  • 1% isn't really a majority nick. not many people wanted the facility appearently.

    and yes this was the place for this comment.

    the nick, don't be stupid (ignorant).

    -- Posted by BTWinecleff on Fri, Apr 27, 2012, at 7:56 PM
  • Ignorant = uninformed

    I like to take it a bit further and say that ignorance is the lack of desire to be informed.

    I informed you BT, that a majority rule is a vote over 50% and you choose to argue the semantic differential of it all. I would say that you choose not to be informed, not unlike some others that I have a dressed recently.

    -- Posted by Nick Mercy on Fri, Apr 27, 2012, at 11:37 PM
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