Ada County Commissioners discuss potential jail expansion bond for November ballot
The Ada County Commissioners met Monday to discuss the potential of asking voters to approve a jail expansion bond in November. County officials estimate the project would cost about $55 million; but the bond would be for a total of about $50 million. That's expected to be as much as $4 in new assessed property tax for every $100,000 of taxable property value.
Sheriff Matt Clifford and county officials say the jail operates at or beyond capacity most days, and an expansion is crucial for inmates and staff.
Clearwater Financial was hired to help Ada County develop public insight through a survey on whether or not this bond is seen as beneficial to the community and the jail.
“The goal is really, truly overarching is to engage the public to get them information and to push that information out as broad and wide as possible,” said Clearwater founder, Cameron Arial.
Monday, he told county commissioners more than 650 responses were received since the survey went live late last Thursday.
Initial survey results showed about a 76% strong support rate, around 80% higher than neutral. However, when cost was introduced, strong support declined and more remained unsure.
The bond would fund expanded inmate housing, which hasn’t been renovated in a decade. It also would improve kitchen, laundry and storage facilities, which date back to 1977.
The current jail population stands at 985. Ada County Sheriff’s Office Chief Legal Advisor, Terry Durden, said tension in the jail rises when the inmate population increases.
“You can tell the days that we're over a thousand or we're right at that level because there's a new stress in the air when we have the inability to move people that need to move.”
Ada County Sheriff Office’s Jake Vogt also noted that when inmates feel unsafe, they are more likely to start fights. If the environment feels safe, the jail functions better.
Commissioners will decide Thursday if the bond will be on the November ballot.
The public survey is available here.
Correction: An ACSO official previously said the bond was estimated to cost $55.4 million, but later clarified that is the estimated total project cost. The bond amount is expected to be closer to $50 million because the county already has existing funding set aside to cover some project costs. This story has been updated to reflect this information.