Sheriff Outlines Financial Impact Of Closing Old Jail

(Juneau) The Dodge County Board was presented Wednesday night with a financial report of the old jail house. The nearly 60-year-old structure is plagued with issues stemming from outdated video equipment, jail code problems, and rundown mechanical systems.

Last September, the board voted down a resolution that would have closed the facility in 2020 so that more information could be gathered. One of the concerns with closing the facility outright would be the lost revenue from contracted beds to house detainees from U.S. Marshals and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Sheriff Dale Schmidt says closing the jail without replacing the beds lost from immigration holds would have a significant financial impact. He says the tax levy in Dodge County could increase by at least $1.2-million per year.

Last fall, the sheriff’s office proposed a plan to add two new housing pods to the existing jail. The presentation last night suggested an estimated cost of a building project to be around $20-million. The funds would come from a 20-year bond which is estimated to cost just under $26-million once the borrowing is completed. Schmidt says he understands the county wanting to be fiscally responsible but adds that there will be services lost by just closing the jail. He says the sheriff’s office alone will not be able to carry the burden of the tax levy increase and other services across the county would have to be adjusted in order to make up for the lost revenue. Schmidt says those would be difficult cuts to make but notes that every effort will be taken to maximize the money they have. He notes that it would likely not be a levy increase to local tax payers due to levy limits that are put on the county and its municipalities.

Schmidt says his office will be answering questions from committees in the next month or two and it will be up to them to decide the best course of action. He says that no closing date should be set on the old jail without first deciding if a replacement facility will be built.