Commissioners to review jail expansion, mental health center information with eye to referendum

Douglas County Jail

Having armed themselves with information, Douglas County commissioners will start considering at a Wednesday work session how they will put before voters proposals to expand the county jail and build and staff a mental health crisis intervention center.

At five work sessions over the last two months, commissioners were presented with data on current jail needs and projected future inmate numbers, as well as information on the status of and gaps in behavioral health services in the county. During those work sessions, commissioners concurred on the need for both the jail expansion and mental health crisis intervention center and a commitment to ask voters to approve funding for both facilities, either in a single referendum or in separate votes.

Information shared with commissioners at the five previous work sessions includes:

• Estimates from Treanor Architects that found the cost to expand the jail increased to $38 million, if 131 beds are added to the 186-bed facility, and to $46 million if 170 beds are added. It also is estimated that an expansion would require 89 additional employees and cost $5.3 million more to operate annually despite the fact that the county would no longer have to spend $1.3 million a year to house inmates in other counties.

Commissioners do not have an estimate for the crisis center because the programming and services that will influence its design are still being developed.

• The county has the authority to ask voters for either a quarter- or half-cent sales tax for the jail expansion, crisis intervention center and mental health programming. A quarter-cent tax would provide $4.86 million annually, and a half-cent tax would provide $9.72 million annually to help retire debt from the construction of either facility or mental health services.

Commissioners do not have an estimate for the crisis center.

The Douglas County Commission meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. A complete agenda can be viewed at