AP NEWS

Woodbury County leaders thinking about building bigger jail

April 19, 2019

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Woodbury County officials are considering building a new county jail with the capacity to house up to 200 more prisoners, including federal immigration detainees.

Keith Radig, chairman of the county board, told the Sioux City Journal on Thursday that it makes more sense to build a jail at a cost of up to $50 million than pay $12 million to $14 million to repair the current 234-bed facility that opened in 1987.

Radig said a new jail with 300 to 440 beds would provide extra space to accept detainees in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — an average of 80 inmates daily. The resulting hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue could possibly eliminate the need to repay construction debt with property taxes.

“We could take them right now, but we don’t have room,” Radig said.

A countywide vote would be needed in order to approve a capital project that costs over $1.2 million financed by property taxes. Residents may not have the desire to fund such a costly project, county leaders noted.

“A bond issue is probably the intended and right way to do it,” said Radig, who added he would prefer to put a measure on the ballot in 2020.

A five-member committee has been gathering to determine a plan for the county’s forthcoming jail needs.

There does not seem to be a location big enough to place a new jail in downtown Sioux City, Radig said. County officials instead are considering suburban sites. The two top sites are a lot on the south end of Sioux City, west of Sioux Gateway Airport, and the county’s former Prairie Hills jail extension, on the east side of the city.

Sheriff Dave Drew, a member of the committee, said his ideal site is west of the airport because it is near Interstate 29. Drew added that federal authorities would subsequently be able to move detainees to a new facility easier.

“Logistically, it works out good,” Drew said.

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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