(PLATTE COUNTY,MO) People in Platte County will soon be voting on a new sales tax to support jail expansion. Tuesday the Platte County Commission agreed to place a proposal for half-cent sales tax on the April ballot. The capital improvements sales tax would generate funds to build an additional jail in Platte County and provide additional money for maintenance within the existing jail.
Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen said the population within the county jail is rapidly expanding, and gender and municipal segregation prevents some prisoners from sharing space.
“As the women's population has increased, which it has, we’ve had to move them to a block pod that held approximately 30 people. Out of that I’ve got 22 women at that time and I immediately have 8 beds now that I can’t use, because I cannot bring male population into the female pod,” Owens said.
The jail has resorted to shifting prisoners within the jail cells, typically having two people sleeping in the beds of the cell and a third on a cot on the floor often referred to as a ‘boat’.
"We have 23 people in boats on the floor, due to the segregations, so while you have 171-172 in custody, out of that 23 of them are on the floor,"Owen said.
The commission will be working out a final plan for the proposed project. One option would include transforming a parking lot on the west side of the county government building into a two to three story structure with approximately 104 beds on each floor. The second option proposed by the commission would be an off-site facility with 192 beds and the potential for additional expansion.
"Our hope is that some of the capital improvements that can be met with this tax, can relieve some of the stress off the general revenue capital improvements which will allow us to address some of the pay issues we have,"Presiding Commissioner Ron Schieber said.
The half-cent sales tax will have a 6.25 year sunset and is expected to generate $65,625,000. In a 2012 study of the county jail, the local incarcerated population is expected to increase by approximately 10 new prisoners each year for the next decade.
"Where we are at today is in a situation where we cannot continue to kick the can concerning the jail and capital improvements, especially in law enforcement, down the road any further,"Schieber said.
If the tax is approved by voters will take effect on October 1, and run through December 2025.