Committee OKs new jail plan to present to county board

This design concept for a new county jail and Sheriff's Department offices was approved Thursday night as the plan to be presented to county supervisors for approval for a bond referendum. Press photo by Bob Steenson
This design concept for a new county jail and Sheriff’s Department offices was approved Thursday night as the plan to be presented to county supervisors for approval for a bond referendum.The existing courthouse is on the right.
Press photo by Bob Steenson
By Bob Steenson,

A citizens committee is ready to make a recommendation to the Floyd County Board of Supervisors to push forward with the construction of a new county jail and Sheriff’s Department offices next to the courthouse.

Members of the committee were also presented with information on how bonding for $12.7 million in construction costs could affect property taxes in the county.

The citizens committee met Thursday night and agreed unanimously among the members present to recommend a single-story jail plan to be built west of the courthouse. The group has been discussing options since May.

Members of the committee and representatives of Prochaska & Associates, an Omaha design and planning firm that is consulting with the county on the project, tentatively plan to present the plan to the county Board of Supervisors at its planning meeting on Monday, Nov. 20.

“This plan gives us a lot of options,” said Linda Tjaden, the chairwoman of the citizens committee and also one of three county supervisors who will vote whether to proceed.

County Sheriff Jeff Crooks, who has been an advocate for the single-story jail model, said he was happy with the latest design concepts, and liked that it would create a new, attractive entrance to the courthouse.

“What we have now is not that good of an impression,” Crooks said about the ground floor entrance off of Clark Street that opens into a long, relatively low corridor.

The price tag for the new law enforcement center has come down a little from earlier estimates, after changes were made in the potential design to meet committee members’ suggestions.

The $12.7 million cost — including some renovations to the courthouse such as new windows, restrooms, elevators and a new heating and air-conditioning system — is down from an original estimate of $13.5 million, and is the least expensive among the designs that were considered.

To build the facility, county supervisors would need to authorize a referendum asking county voters if they support selling bonds to pay for construction. Bond referendums for a project such as this must pass by a 60 percent majority in Iowa.

Jeff Heil, vice president of public finance for Northland Securities, who has worked with Floyd County on previous bonding projects, presented a list of how repaying the bonds would affect property taxes over a 19-20-year period.

His figures showed that a home with an assessed value of $100,000 would pay about $57 a year additional in property taxes. A $250,000 home would pay about $141 additional per year.

A commercial-industrial property assessed at $500,000 would pay $457 more each year, and agricultural land would pay approximately $1.06 per acre, so a 640-acre farm would pay about $677 additional per year.

The county is considering constructing a new jail because the existing jail, located on the top floor of the courthouse, does not meet state specifications and poses security and safety concerns for the county employees who work there.

The committee also discussed how it would support the project if the supervisors approve a bond referendum.

Several members of the committee said the best way to convince voters of the need for a new jail would be to show them the condition of the existing facilities.

Heil said the committee can either decide to present just factual information to the public, or can actively advocate for a yes vote.

He cautioned, however, that public employees cannot use any public resources such as phones or copy machines to lobby for one side or another in an election. If public employees want to advocate for the project they would need to do so on their own time using private resources.

If the supervisors OK going ahead, the committee plans to hold public information events around the county to present the plan to residents and answer questions.

The plan has a new entrance and atrium that would join the addition and the courthouse and provide new handicapped-accessible restrooms as well as separate elevators for the public and for jail detainees to the courthouse’s five floors.

The plan would require closing Jackson Street between Court Street and Gilbert Street, and would require city approval for diagonal parking along Court Street.