The Dixon County Supervisors hosted a special meeting for the public on Thursday, March 17 at the Dixon County Courthouse, to discuss and share plans with those in attendance on a proposed new jail and perhaps new courthouse structure as well.
An estimated 50 residents of Dixon County attended the open house, and heard information about the proposed project from Chairman Lisa Lunz, Prochaska & Associates engineers, and participated in a Q&A session with Sheriff Tom Decker fielding questions as well.
Information provided included some detailed expense listings of “Courthouse Repairs” since 2010 – a list that totaled out at $544,027 in the 22-year span on the front page, with additional pages in the hand-out listing everything from new heat pumps to drinking fountain repairs, toilet repairs, new air-conditioning, asbestos evaluations and shower repairs – among a host of other expenses by year.
In 2018 electricity costs for the courthouse totaled $9,949 according to the handout, and in 2019 it topped out at $18,305, and has since declined slightly to $14,812. Sewer/water/gas also hit a high point in 2019 at $4,307, and have stayed around $4,000 a year.
The main project that started the conversation was consideration of a new jail, which was reported on a number of weeks ago – with expenses, location, age of building, security and prisoner well-being and transport topping the list as some of the major problems with the current facility. Expenses for mileage in transporting and holding prisoners in other nearby jails was also expressed as a concern as those expenses come direct from the county’s budget.
Depending on where the prisoners would be housed, assuming Dixon County’s jail is full or inaccessible, it could cost the county up to a high note of $65 per day for prisoners, with most jails charging around $50 per day.
The future of the jail’s “customers” can be found in the “Jail Needs Assessment” that is linked on the Dixon County website under “Public Notices.” A detailed looked at the inmate future, prisoner population estimates and time needed for jail beds was all included.
Also included for the public was comments from a “Citizens Committee” meeting that was held on March 23, 2021, which helped guide the original process.
Representatives from near all population centers of Dixon County listed “Con’s” of the current facility including lack of space and storage, safety concerns, efficiency concerns, costly maintenance, jail compliance issues, cracked walls, shared office spaces, roof repairs, lack of storage, uneven flooring and some structural layout issues as some of the main concerns.
With the needs assessment and some estimates as “Phase 1” – the Supervisors have officially made progress toward “Phase 2” – which, according to the information on the County website includes “Preliminary Concept Planning.”
“Phase 2” was charted out to start in January with a kick-off meeting and jail tour, and end perhaps with a presentation to the County Supervisors to ask the County voters for a bond election for new construction, if that is the direction chosen.
In between would be the development of a budget for the project, engineering estimates and construction estimates and a necessary review by the Nebraska Department of Corrections, among other milestones.
Questions can be directed to any County Supervisor, information can be obtained as available on the County website and more report will follow as they are made known.