Letter to the Editor

Fulfilling duty

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dear Editor,

I feel the need to say some things about a special interest group who are trying to overturn an unanimous decision of your duly-elected Red Willow County Board.

I have served as a member of elected public boards for over 20 years and nearly every time we have voted to change anything, someone or some group surfaces, that want something different or no change at all.

The people we are dealing with now have one agenda. All the spinning of words and numbers, all the pleading for the right to vote, and whatever they come up with next, is about keeping Red Willow County Government from building Your Sheriff's Office and Jail on "Historic George Norris Avenue."

In everyone's life, business, or in this case, governing board, there are times when events or circumstances call for action.

The City of McCook has for almost 30 years given Red Willow County a nearly free pass on their 96-hour holding cells. I say that because the city's staffing costs were never part of the County's jail budget. When the city closes their holding cells, that staffing cost will come home to the county, where it belongs by statute.

It will be shocking, like when the farm boy who had been filling his pickup from the farm gas tank goes to college and has to start filling his own tank with his spending money.

The operational cost is coming. It will cause Red Willow County property taxes to increase. I will not argue the cost. The staffing requirements are similar for a hold, transport and rent beds scenario or a real jail.

What really favors a Red Willow County Jail is locking in through the bonding process, part of the jail budget going forward at an interest rate that is at or near historic lows. There is a 20-year end to that payment. With continued growth of the valuation of Red Willow County, the pay off could be sooner or the percentage of the county budget could be less. In addition, the jail bond amount would be capital improvement and be treated as such in any budget calculation.

The Red Willow County Law Enforcement Center (Sheriff's Office and Jail) located next to the courthouse will fulfill the county's statutory responsibility to provide for the care and the safekeeping of prisoners. It will meet the needs of providing security for the county and district courts, as well as continuing to be convenient for the public when dealing with titles and vehicle inspections.

I feel confident that this is the time for Red Willow County to step up and fulfill its statutory and public safety responsibilities.

This facility will handle these responsibilities far into the future, whatever it may bring.

If you have any concerns that the Nebraska State Legislature, the majority of whom are from Lincoln and east, or that the United States Congress might at anytime in the future pass legislation that would have a negative impact on Red Willow County's budget, Vote FOR on the bond May 15th. Also, if you live on or use a county road, a vote FOR would be wise.

Thanks for your time,

Steve Downer

Red Willow County

Commissioner District 2

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  • Mr. Downer, first thanks for your service as a County Commissioner. I am sure you take hits from all sides. Two, pressing questions: 1)Are Mr. Dueland's figures about the cost per inmate per day correct in that they will go from about $80 per day to over $200 per day with a new facility? 2)Is it true that the share of the county budget for law enforcement will double if a new facility is built? Please provide figures.

    -- Posted by dennis on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 10:47 AM
    Response by Bruce Crosby:
    Stand by for a letter from Commissioner Earl McNutt on Tuesday.
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