Oskaloosa The Jefferson County Commission signed a contract this week for the purchase of a tract of land, in hopes the site will soon feature a new law enforcement center.
Commissioners agreed to pay $57,000 to Vincent Edmonds of Oskaloosa for about 18 acres located on the west side of U.S. Highway 59 at the southern edge of Oskaloosa,. The same site was included on a $3.5 million jail bond issue, which was defeated by county voters in November's general election.
James Ferrel, county commissioner, voted against the land purchase, maintaining that the jail should be built on property already owned by the county. However, Commission Chairman Rollin Clark said estimates for preparing county land for construction have been cited as much higher than the cost of Edmond's property. "We figure we're saving the taxpayers a lot of money by doing it this way," he said.
Clark said the purchase will free up other county-owned sites for future use. "We might need land down the road anyway," he said, citing as an example the Jefferson County Sheriff's office needs for a shooting practice area.
Commissioner Bill Rhodes said other suggestions for dealing with overcrowding at the existing jail were unsuccessful. "We'd pretty well exhausted all other possibilities and thought we'd better proceed if we want to get it on the ballot in the spring," he said.
The jail construction issue will come before the voters again on April 2 and commissioners hope to use the same basic plan designed for the November ballot by Kimmee Planning and Architecture, Champaign, Ill. "I imagine there will be some changes," Rhodes said. "We'd like to scale it down a bit."
A final resolution for the jail question should be completed by the end of the month, he said.
The existing jail, which was built in 1931, was intended to house a sheriff, undersheriff and 13 beds. The sheriff's department has grown to about 25 employees and the jail suffers from overcrowding.