After reading the article in today's edition of the Blue Mountain Eagle regarding the privacy barrier between the Johnstons' and the county's property (Page A1, Sept. 10, "County seeks public hearing about jail fence"), I would like to comment on an option to a possible solution that could end the dispute.
Recently, Commissioner Boyd Britton and I engaged in conversation regarding the jail population and our jail bed contracts with the federal government. We had received a request for an additional 25 beds from Immigrations (Service). Our jail is currently in an over-populated status from the rentals and from the use of local inmates. These rental beds are making a tremendous amount of revenue for the county - just a little over $45,000 a month.
Commissioner Britton and I have discussed the idea of adding onto the existing jail which would boost the revenues to almost double of what they currently are. Adding onto the current facility could cost up to $700,000 (high estimate). Revenues from the current contract could take about two years to fund the new addition. If the addition was completed in a timely fashion, it could possibly be paid off sooner.
If the county was to add onto the current facility, we would need additional space and real property. We would more than likely need the property that the Johnston's own. If this option was selected, the privacy barrier more than likely would be torn down.
My point is, let's consider saving the money on the privacy barrier. Take these funds that may be allocated toward the privacy barrier, and put the funds either toward the addition onto the current jail or toward the acquisition of the Johnston's property. I feel that before we commit ourselves to building the privacy barrier, this option should be shared with all involved and possibly a resolution to this matter can be reached.
Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer presented a copy of this letter to the Grant County Court on Sept. 10.
Sheriff Glenn Palmer