Sheriff not ready to annouce next moveAfter all the discussion about overcrowding, early releases, parole sanctions, location and other issues, it appears money was the deciding factor for most voters in the defeat of the Clatsop County jail bond measure Tuesday.
The $15.7 million measure for construction of a new jail was soundly rejected by county voters 8,127 to 5,615 (57.3 percent to 39.6 percent).
The vote was almost identical to that cast for the other big-ticket item on the ballot, Clatsop Community College's $29 million bond measure.
The defeat was a disappointment to Sheriff John Raichl, who convinced the Board of Commissioners to seek the bond measure this year. He said this morning it's too early to say what the county's next move should be. But while the cost of the bond measure may have been a factor in its defeat, Raichl said the county should think twice before trying to come up with a cheaper project.
"It might be easier to sell to the voters, but I would hate to see government put a lot of effort into a project that would not meet our long-range needs," he said.
The bond would have paid for a 140-bed jail, expandable to 175 beds, to replace the existing 64-bed facility that now routinely releases offenders before their sentences are served because of a lack of space.
Some issues surrounding the jail project remained unresolved - county officials hadn't yet settled on a location, a final design or a price tag. The North Coast Business Park in Warrenton was the original top choice, but while the county's dispute with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dragged on, county staff began looking elsewhere. Last month, officials began discussions with the owner of a parcel next to the Rilea Armed Forces Training Center.
As for the design, Raichl explained that the county did not want to go to the expense of preparing detailed architectural plans until learning whether voters would support the project.
Another lingering issue was the question of the jail's added operational costs, which were estimated to be $850,000 higher than the current facility. After considering and then rejecting proposed room and restaurant taxes, the board reluctantly agreed to a plan to use state timber funds to meet the added costs unless another funding source could be found.
If the county tries another bond measure, it probably will not be for another two years. Otherwise the bond measure would be subject to the double-majority rule, which requires a turnout of at least 50 percent of registered voters to pass a money measure.
The county has been seeking answers to the shortcomings of the existing jail for several years. Officials say that not only are most local offenders serving only a fraction of their sentences, but many people on parole and probation are violating the terms of their release agreements with impunity because they are rarely jailed.
As a stop-gap measure, the board voted last month to rent 10 more beds at the Tillamook County Jail, which already provides 15 beds to the county. The board added the condition that some of the beds be used to hold parole and probation violators.
Prior to the board's vote, Raichl said the extra beds would help keep behind bars some of the more dangerous offenders now being released because of overcrowding, but Community Corrections Director Danny Jordan said it would make it more difficult to provide alcohol and drug treatment services for inmates if they were lodged in Tillamook.