McCOOK, Nebraska -- Red Willow County, Nebraska, Sheriff Gene Mahon assured county commissioners Monday morning that his staff will be ready to go when the City of McCook moves out of its jail facility on Tuesday, Dec. 18 and, within seconds, the county takes over.
"So," Sheriff Mahon told McCook Police Chief Ike Brown, "on Dec 18, Ike, you're out of the jail business."
With a grin spreading across his face, Chief Brown said, "Oh, I'm so sad."
The city moves out of its public safety center by midnight, Dec. 18, and within seconds, the county assumes responsibility for the facility which houses 96-hour prisoner holding cells that sheriff's officers will use rather than transporting prisoners to neighboring contracted jails 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Commission chairman Earl McNutt said, "We can't have any time lapse in occupation." City manager Jeff Hancock agreed, saying, "It's a hand-off Dec. 18. The obligation shifts to the county."
Chief Brown said, motioning to Sheriff Mahon, "We'll coordinate it. We'll make it happen." Mahon added, "We're set to go when that date arrives. We're ready to go." Mahon said he anticipates "no conflicts of any kind" with Nebraska state jail standards.
Sheriff Mahon said that to make the transition as smooth as possible, he will not house any prisoners in the holding cells for the first couple days if at all possible. He plans a thorough documentation of the condition and cleaning of the building, because the city is charging the county a $4,000 damage deposit.
McNutt said, "I would have liked to have done away with the deposit, but we'll get it back," when the county moves out of the city's facility and into its own new jail. When the new jail is completed, the county will no longer need the city's jail facility and its use reverts back to the city.
Sheriff Mahon said that, during the time the county uses the city's jail facility, deputies will remain at the current sheriff's office at the courthouse, and the jail staff will man the city facility/county jail.
The agreement between the county and the city indicates that the county will pay utilities for the public safety center building (estimated at $17,500 a year), although the city will continue to pay insurance on it (estimated at $3,650).
The county will have the use of all but the big fire truck bays on the east, which the city plans to use for storage of its vehicles. Hancock promised that city staff will keep the thermostat low in the bay area to help the county keep its electric bill as low as possible.
The phone system and video cameras and whatever furniture is left in the building after the city moves out is available for use by the county, Chief Brown said.
The city plans to take its emergency generators. McNutt said it's vital that the county has its own generator(s) on site and available for use at the time occupation switches.