In Prineville, across the street from the Crook County Sheriff’s Office, an $18.5 million jail facility is taking shape. It’s expected to wrap up by April and take on inmates in July.
In nearby Jefferson County, where jail beds are rented to Crook County, officials are viewing the development with trepidation.
“We tried to offer them a sweet deal,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins. “But they wanted their own jail, which I can understand.”
Voters in Jefferson County will be asked next month to fund a jail levy at a higher rate to address a drop in revenue expected when Crook County opens its new jail.
For the past 18 years, an arrangement between Jefferson and Crook counties has kept the Jefferson jail operating levy low. Since Jefferson County opened its 160-bed jail in Madras in 2000, it has rented beds to neighboring Crook County, whose jail is considered out-of-date and can hold only about 20 inmates.
The amount Crook County has paid has crept up each year. Last year, it paid $750,000. But in 2016, Crook County voters passed a $10 million levy to help build a new jail.
So now, to address the lost income, Jefferson County voters will be asked to approve a levy 0.46 cents higher than the current rate of $1.24 per $1,000 of assessed property value. It would raise $15 million over five years.
The current levy runs out in June.
Adkins called increasing the levy to $1.70 the minimum of what his office needs to operate the jail. He thinks most voters will go along with it.
“We’re not asking for more personnel. It has strictly to do with lost revenue,” he said. “What I keep telling everybody is, it’s time we step up and pay the complete cost of running our jail. For the last 18 years, Crook County has subsidized us and kept our levy cost down.”
The Jefferson County Jail houses an average of 90to 110 inmates per night. Of those, about 20 to 30 are from Crook County, including all of Crook County’s female inmates.
If the jail levy fails in November, Adkins said he’ll try to put the question on the next ballot, in May. If that fails, he says he’ll have to slash his corrections staff nearly in half, which would mean reducing capacity in the Jefferson County Jail to 15 to 20 beds. That’s about the size of the Crook County Jail.
Adkins was given temporary funding from the Jefferson County Commission to temporarily hire two additional corrections deputies to address the loss of three deputies on paid leave as they await trial for allowing the death of an inmate.
They’ve each pleaded not guilty, and their is trial is scheduled for next month.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org