Proposed County Jail: Cost Concerns - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

Proposed County Jail: Cost Concerns

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Yesterday we showed you the problems that overcrowding is causing in the Burleigh and Morton county jails and how the majority of city leaders are hoping a  new 500 bed jail can be the solution.

The shared county jail will have 467 beds when first built and have the capability to house up to 1,000 inmates with expansions.

Supporters say the jail will ensure public safety now, and as the community continues to grow, but those against it say it won't solve any problems, it may just add to them.

The final cost of the proposed joint county jail will total nearly $20 million more than expected, which is forcing Burleigh County Sheriff Pat Heinert to answer some tough questions.

"The $50 million was a cost estimate by a non architect, he was a jail consultant basing it off of square footage costs of what he thought it would at that time, didn't take into account the cost of materials and the cost of labor in our area. He also did not take onto account the renovations and the land development," says Heinert.

An additional $3.5 million is needed for sewage since the proposed site off of Apple Creek Road is undeveloped. Heinert says the new jail will house inmates based on a low, medium or maximum security classification, something the current jails don't have.
And officers will be able to keep a closer eye on inmates.
"Each pod will have a control room in the center of it, and that officer within each pod will control that pod," says Heinert.

The booking area will have 30 cells to make the incarceration process faster, which gets officers back on the streets quicker. A half cent sales tax increase, imposed by a home rule charter, will pay for the jail, and it will end as soon as the bonds are paid off. Burleigh County will cover 87 percent of the costs and Morton will pick up the remaining 13.

"The intent is to have the facility paid off in less than 10 years but have both counties with the half cent sales tax to end at about the same time," says Heinert.
Mark Armstrong, the only commissioner in both Burleigh and Morton to vote against building the jail, says residents should be wary of a new tax.

"I know there are all these promises about don't worry we're going to sunset it away we're going to use it for the jail then get rid of it we don't know what that future commission is going to do," says Armstrong.
Correctional officers from both counties will be trained to work at the bigger facility under the Burleigh County Sheriffs Department. Morton County Sheriff Dave Shipman says that operational costs will be annually evaluated based on the number of inmates from each county.

Armstrong says voters should keep this in mind.

"If you operate a jail for 50 years your operational cost will dwarf what the brick and mortar costs are. It's the individuals you have to hire that cost you the most money over time," says Armstrong.

Bismarck City Commissioner Mike Seminary says despite the price, he's hoping residents understand the need.

"My sense is that people understand we have a need, and as we continue to grow, and it looks like we're going to have pretty significant growth for quite awhile and opportunities unfortunately that brings a side of our culture and society that we have to deal with in another way," says Seminary.

Commissioners say 30 percent of sales tax collected in the counties comes from visitors. If passed, designs could be completed by November this year, and consultants say lock downs could begin by January of 2017.

Voters will head to the polls to either accept or reject the jail on June 10. You can check out the plans for yourself at
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