Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 189
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for May 8, 2003

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

Dear Editor

Johnson County needs a new $5 million jail, we're told, to house up to 125 prisoners. The county could have bought the 200-bed private jail over by Holden for about $3.6 million. The reasons for not purchasing it, as I've read, include the fact that it would have required some modification to house high-security prisoners and to include office space, as well as the cost to transport prisoners back and forth to Warrensburg.

The current jail, in the old Safeway store just off the Courthouse square, is certainly inadequate. I don't doubt that we'll be faced with a vote for new taxes for a replacement sometime in the not-too-distant future. The success of any jail bond issue will depend on how good a job the Sheriff and County Commission do on convincing the voters that their solution is the most frugal one. Here are some questions they'll have to answer:

Political considerations will also have to be taken into account. In light of the defeat of the Trails Library expansion last year, would the out-county voters approve more capital expenditures in Warrensburg when a comparable facility existed in another area of the county? Would the voters be reluctant to pass a tax for whatever valid purpose after watching the Ambulance Board squander money on their new empire ($400,000 for a building of their very own just a block from a fire station that has housed city ambulances)?

The County Commission will ultimately make the decision on if and when a jail project should proceed. Meanwhile, I wonder why we're paying other counties $65 to $70 a day to house overflow prisoners in other counties, when Kansas City will pay $36.50 per day at the Holden facility.

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