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By Dave Olson, Published June 10 2009

Clay officials weigh potential jail project funding

Clay County officials received estimates Tuesday on what it may cost taxpayers to build a new jail, a project officials say is needed and likely to happen, but which has yet to be approved.

The county’s bond consultant presented Clay County commissioners with several funding options for a $22.8 million project that would provide about 150 jail beds.

The current jail can house about 98 prisoners, but inmates are regularly sent to other counties because of overcrowding.

County officials worry that because of new jail standards the Minnesota Department of Corrections may reduce the number of prisoners the current jail can house.

A bond issue is a potential way to pay for a larger jail, and commissioners were told Tuesday that under a 20-year repayment schedule a $22.8 million project would likely cost the county more than $35 million, when financing costs are included.

Under such an option, annual property taxes on a $150,000 residential homestead would increase $73 the first year of the bond repayment schedule.

Taxes on a $500,000 agricultural homestead would go up about $151.

Under one potential 30-year bond repayment schedule, the total project cost would top $46 million.

That option would result in a property tax increase of $63 on a $150,000 residential home and a $130 tax increase on a $500,000 agricultural homestead.

A $22.8 million project would likely meet the county’s jail needs for the next 20 years, according to Ryan Mullikin, assistant jail administrator, who said the need is clear.

He said the hours that jail workers spend contacting other counties to make boarding arrangements for prisoners are just one piece of the financial puzzle.

“Then you have to deal with court administration, as far as coordinating when their next court appearance is, attorney visits, or whatnot,” Mullikin said.

“I think everybody is drawing the conclusion something is going to have to be done. It’s just: When is the time?” he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555