Fiscal committee edits pre-design advice to county council on new jail, funding still question mark

At its final scheduled session on Monday night, Monroe County’s justice fiscal advisory committee (JFAC) slogged through 35 recommendations on a new jail facility, which it had developed over the course of seven meetings starting in early June.

The committee’s recommendations are advice on pre-architectural topics falling into broad categories: procedural matters; system-wide improvements; community services; re-entry; community corrections; diversity, equity, and inclusion; treatment; and the jail itself.

The funding recommendations remain just a list of possible sources, which include the innkeepers tax, and the food and beverage tax—which are unlikely, if not impossible, sources to fund jail programing, support services, or jail construction.

No dollar amounts are included for the amount of money that could be generated for jail construction and operations through enacting an additional rate in the corrections category of local income tax.

But on Monday, the three council councilors who are the voting members of the committee—Jennifer Crossley, Kate Wiltz, and Peter Iversen—did not take a vote to adopt their report. They want to allow time for the edited recommendations, which in some cases have been consolidated, to sit in public view and be digested—until the full county council’s next meeting, on Tuesday Sept. 26.

The edited recommendations are supposed to be posted on the JFAC’s website.

The idea is that on Sept. 26, in the context of the full council meeting, the three-member committee will take a vote to adopt the recommendations.

Responding to B Square questions after Monday’s meeting, about the timing for the county council’s discussion of the specifics of funding sources, Crossley and Wiltz indicated they did not anticipate that conversation would take place at the Sept. 26 county council meeting.

The idea would be to present the recommendations to the full council and let them “soak in,” Crossley said. If there’s a discussion of enacting a higher corrections local income tax rate, that would be “another conversation,” she said.

About the idea of taking on the topic of the corrections local income tax rate and the amount of revenue it could generate, Wiltz said, “We’re chipping away at it from different angles.” She could not give an exact timeframe for it, Wilz said. Discussion of a corrections tax rate would wait at least until after the county’s budget is adopted in mid-October, Wiltz indicated.

Wiltz said that a bigger outstanding question is the selection of a site for the new jail. More information is needed about the Thomson site, Wiltz said.

This week, Monroe County commissioners are hosting meetings to get feedback on the Thomson PUD as a possible site for a new county jail. Here’s the basic meeting information: Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m (Summit Elementary School) and Sunday, Sept. 24 at 3 p.m. (RCA Community Park).

The work of county officials on the topic of constructing a new jail comes as a response to the reports from two consultants  delivered to county government over two years ago. As one of the reports puts it: “The jail facility is failing…”

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