Oklahoma County Jail's Fate Awaits Commissioners' Decision
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The dilemma before Oklahoma County Commissioners is weather to build a new Oklahoma County Jail or remodel the old one. Either way they admit something must be done.
County commissioners aren't just looking at what to do at the jail; they also want to build a new juvenile center. That'll cost hundreds of millions, and tax payers will foot the bill.
The Oklahoma County jail is nearly 18 years old, overcrowded and understaffed; a situation county officials know needs to change.
"People see it from the outside and it looks like a great facility, but the issue is once you're inside, it's just not a good facility at all," Mark Myers with the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office said.
The Department of Justice pointed out the jail's flaws in a report last year. The feds then moved their 160 inmates to other facilities because of safety, sanitation and health care concerns.
"Anyone who has been around and saw The Department of Justice report knows that something has to be done," Myers said.
A citizen's advisory committee has defined that something. Oklahoma County Commissioner Ray Vaughn says it's either remodel the old jail and add an annex, or build a new one altogether.
"It's a real mandate that we keep these people that are threats to society in a secure place," Oklahoma County Commissioner District 3 Ray Vaughn said.
Commissioner Vaughn also says the county needs to construct a new juvenile facility, doubling its size. The estimated price tag for a remodeled county jail with an annex and a new juvenile center is $200 million.
"The only thing we can do is look at, potentially, a tax," Vaughn said.
Commissioner Vaughn is considering a property tax increase for 15 years to pay for construction and a half a cent sales tax, indefinitely, to cover operational costs. Voters ultimately must approve the tax hikes.
"We've got a bit of a gun to our heads to not only do this and do it right and do it as inexpensively as we can, but we've got to do it quickly," Vaughn said.
Vaughn says if nothing's done the feds will likely take over the jail and do whatever they want, increase taxes, and voters would not have to approve any of it.