Members of the Dixon County Board of Supervisors, and the Jail/Courthouse Committee gathered for a joint meeting last Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Ponca Community Hall with 36 listed officials, committee members and members of the public in attendance.
Wakefield was represented by Mayor James Lehmkuhl, and Lisa Lunz, the County Supervisor that covers Wakefield, among other guests.
The meeting was facilitated by the County’s Architectural firm, Prochaska & Associates, who led the group through the main discussion topic for the evening – “to consider options for a new jail, or new courthouse/county offices/jail in light of previous information gathered by the committee.”
The group’s next meeting was planned for Thursday, March 16, at the County Annex building at 6 p.m.
In paraphrased terms, the group discussed:
1. Summarization of the seven location options which the committee has so far considered, asking for comment on both pros and cons of each site, and asking the committee to eliminate or prioritize the options to reduce the list to a more manageable size.
The group went through the entire gamut – Ponca supporting a mainly Ponca location, Martinsburg supporting a Martinsburg location, one individual suggesting the old school building site in NewCastle, one suggestion about removing all options outside of Ponca to remain near other needed services, one suggestion for Allen, and one suggestion for Wakefield, which was not considered since it would flip-flop a current criticism, that the courthouse is too far in one end of the county.
All in all, the committee members, according to the Prochaska & Associates record, were reminded that they were tasked with finding a single location solution and to “have unity” in that decision. It was suggested that forums be held with focus groups to help narrow the decision.
Mayor James Lehmkuhl said that he would “support a single committee decision, wherever it may be.”
No decision on the site location was made at the meeting.
Bonding terms discussed
In the second main order of business, the group heard from the County’s Bonding company – DA Davidson, about the County’s bonding capacity.
The representative showed details of a “nickel tax” option, which allows Counties to impose a 5.2 cent per $100 levy for courthouse and related county departments – without a public referendum – and that it would generate about $8-$9 million.
Discussion was held on an $8-$20 million project, which, when financed with General Obligation Bonds with a 20-year maturity, would increase the county levy by 7-10 cents per $100 valuation, with a projected annual payment of between $1.075 and $1.533 million per year. That figure would increase taxes $72.70 annually per $100,000 of valuation of residential property.
Farm ground, on the same project, would see an increase of $1.77 per acre and $4.11 per acre based on current land valuations for farm land (grass, dry and irrigated.)
The representative noted that a predicted 4% interest rate would make the bonds an attractive investment to investors.
Jail Report review
In the group’s final discussion of the evening, they heard the “Jail Standards Inspection Report” – giving the current facility a “compliant” report, but with “problems that are grandfathered in.”
Some listed issues:
* Third floor is not ADA Compliant
* Booking area and dispatch areas are too close to each other
* Present mold problem will likely recur
* Cell doors are obsolete and keys to door locks are not replaceable
* County liability for jail staff injury if quite high
* Capacity of two-occupant cells is limited because of separation by classification rules
The Jail also recently received a fire marshal report, noting:
* Jail is not fire-sprinkled or separated by fire-rated partitions;
* Third and second floor emergency exiting is served by a single, unenclosed stair and an exterior fire escape that is not linked to all areas of the floors.