County Begins Jail Options Deliberation

Saline County Commissioners learned that a pre-trial services program may bring about a 10-15% reduction in the number of occupied jail beds.  This program is coordinated by Community Corrections and will begin April 15.  This news is welcome but commissioners acknowledged that this step alone won’t reduce the number of inmates to what can be safely housed within the existing jail.

Commissioners also discussed how likely Saline County is to receive a sixth or seventh judge, and what impact that could have on the jail’s population.  Saline County is estimating a 30%-40% likelihood of receiving the sixth judge.

They learned that statistics on the number of arrests being made appear to show a decline.  The city’s police force was reported to be giving out more “notices to appear” for court, for less serious offenses—like shop lifting, as opposed to actually arresting individuals and booking them into jail.

Jail Option Deliberations Begin

A day after receiving the final oral report from a jail consultant, the Saline County Commissioners spent 45 minutes discussing what next steps they will take.  These include:

  • Prioritizing the top two options they wish architects and engineers to further develop. This A/E step can take 30-45 days.
  • Establishing time tables for preparing the measure for voters to consider. County Clerk Jamie Allen said if the commission can be ready by the end of July, the jail could be on the county-wide November 2019 ballot.  Both traditional poll balloting and a mailed ballot were discussed.
  • Discussing ways to promote public comment, on the jail overpopulation issue as well as the options for correcting it. County Administrator Andrew Manley and County Deputy Administrator Hannah Stambaugh spoke of plans to disseminate the consultant’s presentation that was taped by ACCESS, on social media.

Commissioners began speaking about their initial preferences of the four options presented by Jim Robertson of Voorhis/Robertson Justice Services LLC.  Chairman Robert Vidricksen said he does not favor the status quo of housing inmates in other counties, because Saline County’s jail lacks sufficient inmate beds.  He said that as he hears how other commissioners feel, he may change his opinion on which of the remaining three options he would favor.  These include:

  • Continuing to use the present jail for long-term detainees while building a separate facility for bookings and releases and special needs beds.
  • Expanding the existing jail on its present site.
  • Building a new jail facility on a “greenfield” (cleared, ready-to-build, new site).

Each of these options come with different 20 year operating costs and capital construction costs.

Commissioner Jim Weese recalled past discussions about whether making more jail beds available is the commission’s only solution.  Commissioners Monte Shadwick and Vidricksen have attended previous meetings of the Committee to Reduce the Jail Population (2015-2017) and a hybrid work group (2017-present).  Because of Kansas “open meeting” requirements, Commissioners Mike White, Rodger Sparks, and Weese haven’t had the opportunity to attend these earlier meetings.  Commissioners White and Sparks were largely silent on their option preferences; Commissioner Monte Shadwick did not attend today’s commission meeting.

Vidricksen reminded the group of Robertson’s comment that the average life span of a jail is 25-30 years and Saline County’s jail is close to 50 years old and “is worn out”.

Country Club Road Railroad Crossing

Manley told the commission that County Engineer Justin Madder has “badgered” railroad officials enough to “get ahold of someone”.  Manley told commissioners that the Union Pacific has “submitted a request for a new concrete crossing on the East tracks (the bad ones).  Staff is optimistic this will be replaced within a month or two.  Scoular owns the West tracks.  UP is talking to Scoular about removing” the western tracks completely.

Formalizing a Bi-County Planning and Zoning Director

Commissioners encouraged Manley to pursue formalizing a joint agreement to share a Planning and Zoning Director.  Tim Hamilton was first hired by Dickenson County.  When Saline County’s Planning and Zoning Director David Neal resigned, an experiment was begun to test if one individual could handle both counties.

Vidricksen said he has heard “nothing but positives” about Hamilton and noted that sharing the position with another county produces “a nice cost savings”.  Hamilton is able to answer phone calls and e-mails regardless of which county his is in.

In addition, Commissioners:

  • Awarded six $1,000 Oliver Hagg scholarships to students pursuing degrees in agriculture.
  • Approved a five year food service management contract with Aladdin, which provides menu planning assistance, the food and the staff who prepare meals at the Senior Center and for home delivered meals. This contract includes a $35,000 signing bonus.
  • Heard a 2020 Budget Request for Fly Salina from Tim Rogers, Executive Director at the Salina Airport Authority. Ridership has exceeded expectations; some expansions may be forthcoming.
  • Approved a Nex-Tech Cloud Phone Service agreement—worth $33,949 for five years–for Community Corrections.
  • Approved purchasing seven desktop PCs from Dell at a price of $23,919.85.
  • Heard an Emergency Management Update.
  • Updated the credit card processor to permit the county to start receiving statement credits.
  • Learned that mobile radar speed signs cost $3,000-$5,000 each. Some models keep data.
  • Had 21 applicants for the Emergency Management Director position; the first round of phone interviews will be conducted Thursday. Human Resources also received 3 applicants for the Building Authority’s superintendent position; these interviews will occur Friday.
  • Learned sales tax revenue for March, 2019 were $346, 550; these were $365,020 in March 2018. Manley said that revenues to date are “very close to a six year average” and will continue to monitor them.
  • Proclaimed April 2019 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.