MEDFORD, Ore. — After a dialogue that has been years in the making, a plan is now in motion for the construction of a new Jackson County Jail, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO).
In a meeting on Tuesday morning, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted to move forward with a plan to create a county-wide tax, through a service district, to "support future jail operations" — and, according to JCSO, the purchase of land in north Medford where the new jail would be located.
“Building a jail is a long process,” said Sheriff Nathan Sickler. “But it is an important one for our community. We will continue to move forward and do everything possible to provide much-needed relief to our local justice system as soon as possible.”
Jackson County will reportedly use $6.6 million in general fund reserves to purchase property for the proposed jail site — located in a field south of East Vilas Road, between Highway 62 and the future Rogue Valley Expressway.
Earlier this year, Sheriff Sickler rolled out a survey to residents of the county, asking if they would vote for a roughly $100 million bond for the construction of a new jail. The voters delivered a resounding "No," leading JCSO to perform a tactical withdrawal on the issue.
The original proposed facility would have housed 1,000 inmates, paid for by a property tax levy for a cost of $1.09/$1,000 in assessed value to taxpayers, according to JCSO.
After the survey, Sickler went back to the drawing board — consulting with County Administrator Danny Jordan to come up with a plan for a lower price tag.
The result? Jordan's plan would reportedly cost taxpayers "about half" of that original $100 million, and would be paid for by a voter-supported service district. Jordan also said that the County would be able to draw from those general fund reserves to reduce the burden on taxpayers.
$50 million give-or-take for the new jail would buy taxpayers a facility big enough to house 750 inmates, with the ability to expand in the future. That proposed cost could rise or fall, according to Jordan.
As a bonus, JCSO says that Jordan has proposed the old jail as the site of additional courtrooms to supplement the local court system.
JCSO reports that County officials have already hired contractor DLR Group at $82,478 to begin designing and evaluating the project by the first week of December, 2018.
"Sheriff Sickler says there are still a lot of variables that could affect the timing of the process, 'but things are moving in the right direction,'" JCSO said.
If all goes according to plan, funding for the jail will appear on the November 2019 ballot. There will also be a series of public hearings on the matter held that summer.
The current Jackson County Jail facility, even after some creative rearranging accomplished in June, can house less than 300 inmates. According to JCSO, it was built to house 176. The result has been thousands of inmates released early or before they can be tried in court due to overcrowding.