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Oregon hears pitch for new jail

Posted: Wednesday, Mar 15th, 2017

OREGON – In front of a crowd of more than 120 people in the Coliseum Thursday night, County Board Chairman Kim Gouker said the proposed new jail in Oregon would not be a downtown eyesore.

“It won't look like 'Shawshank Redemption' or anything like that,” he told the crowd, referring to the 1994 prison movie.

The public meeting about the proposed new jail to be built behind the Judicial Center was the last of the events held throughout the county over the last few weeks.

The proposed 150-bed jail would cost between $22 million and $28 million, Gouker said. It would be funded with existing funds and the issuance of general obligation bonds. He said the host fees received from the two landfills located in the county will be the income source to repay the bonds.

Gouker said the target to payoff any loan would be 10 years.

During a question period following a presentation lasting more than an hour, people asked about the downtown location, other options and the impact of closing 6thStreet, which would have to be done in order to accommodate the proposed jail plan.

Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle said the proposed location would be safe and cost effective, as it would be connected to the Judicial Center through a Sallyport. He said the current 109-bed jail has ongoing issues and suffers from over-crowding.

“The jail … has become more of a burden to taxpayers,” he said.

He said the proposed new jail would keep staffing levels the same, which is important in keeping costs down.

Gouker and Don Griffin, chairman of the county's Long Range Planning Committee, said other sites were considered but were cost restrictive. Also, a new jail being connected to the Judicial Center would keep continuing costs at a minimum as opposed to locations away from the Judicial Center.

Gouker also stressed that the jail has been in the long-range county plan for nearly 20 years.

“This has not been something we've come up with overnight,” he said.

During the presentation, he showed that all of the previous jails in Ogle County have been in downtown Oregon in the Courthouse square, including the current jail. The proposed new jail would effectively be across the street.

Some in attendance questioned why the the jail needed to be built to house more prisoners than the county currently has on a daily basis. All stressed that they are looking 40 years into the future with this project.

“It's really important not to just build a jail for today,” said Jeff Goodale, with HOK, the firm the county hired to plan the proposed jail.

VanVickle said the jail would be designed with safety in mind, as that is one of his main duties as sheriff – to keep the public safe. He said security would be built into the plan.

Goodale agreed.

“You'll never see an inmate,” he told the crowd. “You won't hear them either.”

And Griffin said there will be no bright lights, fences or barbed wire.

The next phase will be the actual construction design, which could take up to a year.

For the complete article see the 03-13-2017 issue.

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