Appanoose County sheriff downsizes plan for new jail

Jail Administrator Mitch Cairns checks records inside the Appanoose County Jail Thursday/KTVO

Voters in Appanoose County have twice rejected a bond issue for some costly jail upgrades.

Now, county officials are thinking about another attempt at passing the bond.

KTVO toured the facility Thursday morning to find out just how badly the county needs a new jail.

A facility that once held 18 inmates now only holds eight. That's a problem because the number of arrests in the county is rising.

Deputies told KTVO the 40-year-old jail comes with aging infrastructure.

"I have an issue today matter of fact with the plumbing, which I have to have a plumber come in and fix today," said Appanoose County Jail Administrator Mitch Cairns.

But the main concern is overcrowding. Both police officers and deputies agree that the biggest hassle now is having to transport their inmates to neighboring counties.

“We're also tasked with hauling some of these inmates ourselves," said Centerville Police Chief Tom Demry. "If the police department makes an arrest, then they have to be taken to one of the adjoining counties. That causes a problem for us, mainly with staffing, overtime funds, putting our officers on the road rather than being here within the City of Centerville, doing their job of answering calls and protecting the citizens."

Last year, the county spent $131,864 to house inmates in other counties. This fiscal year, the county has already spent $194,606. That's a budget-busting number.

"At some point in time, something has to change,” Appanoose County Sheriff Gary Anderson said. “Appanoose County cannot sustain that level of spending."

Supervisor Mark Waits prefers to keep that money in Appanoose County.

"What really bothers me about this is your tax dollars are leaving the county and not coming back, and not generating anything here," Waits said.

Last year, Appanoose County asked voters to approve a $9 million bond measure for the construction of a brand new law center. That's after voters rejected a $12 million bond issue in 2016.

"We've heard twice from the citizens of Appanoose County and the local communities that they felt the price tag was just too big to be able to support," Anderson said.

On Friday, county officials will meet with an architect to look at a smaller and less expensive design. Anderson said it's too soon to say how much money they'll be asking for next time.

A jail committee will then decide if they want to take this issue to voters a third time.

Voters could see this measure on the ballot as early as August.

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