McCOOK, Nebraska -- Red Willow County, Nebraska, commissioners and McCook city council members may work out an agreement that would allow the county to use the city's 96-hour jail cells until the county is ready to move into a new jail in late 2013.
County commissioners, sheriff Gene Mahon, city manager Jeff Hancock, police chief Ike Brown and fire chief Marc Harpham agreed during a commissioners' meeting this morning that the county could benefit from using the city's holding cells on a temporary basis when the city moves out of its public safety center and into its new municipal facility (built without jail cells) in December.
Hancock told commission chairman Earl McNutt, "We're here to help with this situation ... during this transition."
Commissioners did not give the city officials any final decision, electing instead to discuss the finer details at their morning meetings May 14 and May 21. City council members would like some indication of the commissioners' intentions by council members' evening meeting Monday, May 21.
Hancock assured commissioners that the details could be written into a memorandum of understanding. "Nothing fancy ... it's good to put it in writing," he said. "The city has no other uses for that facility." Hancock said the city anticipates moving into its new facility the end of December, and be operational by Jan. 1, 2013.
Sheriff Mahon said that according to the state's jail standards, when the city moves out of the jail facility at 11:59 p.m., the county has to be ready to take over at midnight. "There can be no lapse," Mahon said.
Mahon said that he would want all of his jailers hired and trained before that transition, although Hancock and Brown assured him the city and county could work together if someone's training isn't completed yet. "Ike and I could work together, between the two of us," Mahon said, if not all of the county's jailers are trained when the city's done with with 96-hour holding facilities.
Hancock assured commissioners that they would have "an operational building" into which to move, whether it would be the entire building or just the police side of the building. The county would take over the utilities of whatever amount of the building it uses.
Brown said that one wall air conditioning unit used to cool computers in the dispatching center will be moved to the new city building, and the county may need to replace a recording system (valued at about $1,700) that will be taken to the new building. Harpham said the old building's back-up generator will also move to the new facility.
Brown said that portions of the roof are out of warranty, and that other sections are nearing that point, although there are no leaks. He also said the fire alarm system is old, but it's very functional.
McNutt is cautious about spending "a ton of money" on a building that the county would use only on a temporary basis.
The alternative to the county taking over the city's 96-hour holding facility until the county's new jail is ready to use is for the county to immediately transport prisoners to out-of-county jails.
Even with the availability of the 96-hour holding cells, the county will need to continue to contract for long-term jail space until its new jail/law enforcement center is completed and ready to occupy, and transport prisoners classified at a risk level too high to be housed in the holding cells., McNutt said.
Fellow commissioner Steve Downer said that taking over the 96-hour holding facility until the new jail is built could cut down on the number of trips to and from neighboring jails for short-term incarceration situations, and eliminate the transport of prisoners who bond out quickly.
Mahon said that having the opportunity to use the 96-hour holding cells means that a drunk or disorderly prisoner would not have to be transported immediately.
Commissioners tabled further discussion until their next meeting, May 14.