Jackson County again asking voters to approve funds for new jail

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MAQUOKETA, Iowa (KCRG) -- An eastern Iowa county is hoping voters will approve a bond referendum to build a new jail for the second time in two years. However, officials say this time taxpayers will get a better deal.

Two drawings show a proposed jail for Jackson County. (Allison Wong, KCRG)

Jackson County held a bond referendum in August of 2018. It asked for up to $6.95 million to build a 14,000, 28-bed facility. It needed 60 percent to pass but only received about 52 percent support. 

After it failed, the jail committee went back to square one and it found a new contractor to build a larger jail for less.

"We were able to come up with a facility that is actually 20,000 square feet. It’s gonna house 50 inmates, which is going to be expandable to 74 for $6.495 million," Chief Deputy Steve Schroeder explained. "We’ve increased our capacity, 50 individuals. We’ve increased our building size by 6,000 square feet, yet reducing the cost a half a million dollars.”

Schroeder says the county has long outgrown its 11-bed facility. The county often has to house inmates in nearby county jails, and there's a waitlist for people to serve time.

He says this new jail plan will last the county for decades.

"In 20 and 30 years down the road, we’re going to need a facility that’s going to house 40 to 50 people. You don’t build a jail for five or 10 years down the road. You build a jail for 40 and 50 years down the road.," he said.

Jackson County Supervisor Larry McDevitt hopes voters will support the measure this time around. He thinks the current jail is unsafe for employees and inmates.

"Currently we have two cells where we put everybody and the new jail would have 11 different classifications. So I mean if you’re picked up for a speeding ticket, you’re not sitting in jail with someone that’s in there for murder," he explained.

Voters in Jackson County can cast their votes on August 6. The measure needs 60 percent to pass. For more information, visit the Jackson County website.