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County considers private funds to build jail

November 22, 2018

Raising private funds to build a new jail is the latest option being considered as county officials look for creative solutions to its problems with the jail.

The Gage County Board of Supervisors discussed the possibility of private investors contributing to build a new jail during Wednesday’s regular board meeting.

Board member Gary Lytle said the idea came from a conversation with Beatrice City Councilman Rick Clabaugh about options for the jail.

“The board is not actively pursuing this project at this time, but this is something I think we should look at,” he said.

While not an immediate solution, Sheriff Millard “Gus” Gustafson said private investment is an option worth considering.

“It won’t happen right away,” Gustafson said. “...I guess in short we’ll just see where it goes, but there are people out there who are concerned enough with what they’re seeing on our expenses that they would like to try and do that.”

The Gage County jail was built in the 1970s and has been the subject of numerous upgrades to repair failing equipment and meet new standards.

Additionally, the county budgets more than $200,000 annually to house inmates in other counties. The current jail holds around 30 inmates, and at times Gage County has had more than twice as many inmates than the jail’s capacity allows.

This prompted multiple agreements with other counties, including a jail in Kansas, to reserve beds to house inmates there.

Gage County reserves 10 beds in Washington County, Kan., and five beds in Dawson County for use by Gage County inmates.

Both contracts were for a rate of $45 per bed, per day, whether or not they are being used.

That amounts to $675 per day, or $246,000 per year to house inmates in other jails.

The county board transferred more than $200,000 in extra funds this year to cover housing additional inmates outside the agreements.

Reserving beds in other jails causes headaches for deputies who have to transport inmates to and from other counties, though it was stated Wednesday that the cost to house inmates elsewhere is actually less than the cost to keep them in Gage County.

“We’ll look at all the dollars and cents, not just keeping the money here,” board member Erich Tiemann said. “Sometimes it’s cheaper to spend the money.”

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