Committee Urges Washington County Board to Build Jail

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Neb. — The Washington County Board of Supervisors on June 28 accepted a formal recommendation to construct a new 60-bed justice center. The new facility would seek to bring the county into compliance with state jail standards, and could cost more than $15 million.

The county’s Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), composed of both municipal representatives and community members, initially presented its recommendation to the board several weeks prior, after months of meetings and an estimated 300 hours of work, according to the Washington County Pilot-Tribune & Enterprise. The recommendation to build a new facility was one of four potential options the group considered after extensive research that included site visits at the existing jail and at jails located in several neighboring counties, as well as reviewing possible funding scenarios. The CAC also worked with Prochaska & Associates, an Omaha, Neb.-based consulting firm to develop its jail plan.

The CAC’s official recommendation includes construction on a new site, which would potentially be financed via a state-authorized, non-voting bond. While the supervisors’ acceptance of the recommendation does not automatically equal a green light for the project, it does mean board members will now begin a more thorough review of the proposed plan.

The other three options put before the CAC included renovating and expanding the existing jail. That option was ruled out as the current site offers limited space for future expansion. This could have potentially forced the county to build upward should further expansion become necessary, or impacted the aesthetics of the historic courthouse.

A third option, transporting inmates to offsite facilities when the existing jail exceeded its rated capacity by 15 or more inmates, was deemed to pose too many safety concerns. While the plan also would have maintained the jail, it did not provide for significant improvements or expansions.

Option four, shuttering the jail entirely and housing all county inmates in offsite facilities, was only briefly considered and was quickly determined by CAC members to be too cost prohibitive. In this scenario, the existing jail would have served only as a holding facility and would have still required that the county maintain existing staff levels.