A referendum in Jefferson County on Tuesday will ask voters to cast their ballots on a proposed 38-bed jail to be built on a county-owned, 20-acre tract just south of Oskaloosa on U.S. Highway 59. The price tag won't exceed $2 million, and funding would come from a 1-cent sales tax increase.
County Commissioner Bill Rhodes said the county would issue 15-year bonds to pay for the project. But he said the bonds likely could be paid off in about seven years, at which time the 1-cent sales tax would be lifted.
"There's no real estate taxes involved," he said. "We're really stressing that."
Voters in November 1990 rejected a $3.5 million facility that would have housed a new jail, and offices for the county sheriff, emergency preparedness and ambulance departments. In April of the following year, a scaled-down $2.9 million jail proposal went down in defeat.
Opposition to the jail proposals over the years has centered on the location of a new facility and an unwillingness to pay additional taxes. County Commissioner James Ferrel has staunchly opposed building the jail on the site south of town, pushing instead for an addition at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Oskaloosa.
He served on the commission in 1962, when the courthouse was constructed, and said the plans called for expanding the building to house a new jail when the need arose.
After failing to reach a consensus on the location of a new jail, Rhodes and the third county commissioner, Rick Shaw, voted June 28 to proceed with a referendum on construction of a new jail at the site south of town without Ferrel's blessing.