Know your ballot: Adams County Justice Center

Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 6:42 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The election is just two weeks away and for Adams County voters there are a couple big ballot measures they get to decide on. One is the proposal for a new justice center to replace the current jail.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors believe now is the best time to get started on building a new justice center that would move the jail, courtrooms, and attorney’s offices to the southern part of town. The current jail was built in the 1960′s. Supervisor Scott Thomsen said they jail is non-compliant

“One of the biggest reasons it is not compliant is because of its age. We have numerous electrical and plumbing issues up there,” Thomsen said. “We have too many prisoners for cells which is one of the biggest reasons it is not compliant. The state has only allowed us to stay open because they allowed us to be grandfathered in.”

Thomsen is concerned the state will decide to close the jail given its current state.

“If they do decide to shut us down we will be spending well between $3-4 million dollars a year which is just an enormous amount of money to spend. We need to be getting something for our money we are spending,” Thomsen said.

The county spends $1.6 million a year to house prisoners in Hall, Buffalo, and Phelps counties. The projected number of prisoners for the county in future year only shows the number going up and they will have to house them in other jails. There is also the added concern of having to take prisoners through the public in the courthouse since the courtrooms are on the second floor. Deputies also can spend all day driving to and from the other jails to bring prisoners to their court hearings.

There is some opposition to the raising of taxes for the project which some believe would put the most pressure on farmers and ranchers.

“Until the state legislature decides to change that, that is the only avenue that we have is property tax dollars to fund this project,” Thomsen said. “We’ve done everything we can to bring the costs down. The cost savings from transporting prisoners elsewhere will naturally reduce that tax liability tremendously.”

The project is estimated at $37 million for the 160 bed jail, courtrooms, and offices. Thomsen said the project has been put off for too long and now is the best time to start.

“The interest rates are so low today it’s just the right time to do it. If we wait it is projected to cost $3-5 million more every year,” Thomsen said.

The county has already purchased the land for the project located at M road and Highway 281. Voters will get the final say to vote for or against the bond to build the justice center. If the bond does not pass the board will consider implementing a nickel tax to pay for a more simple design of the jail.

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