Supervisors need to lead on new jail

Published 12:21 am Sunday, March 5, 2017

Adams County needs a new jail facility, that much is clear. Exactly what should be done to create a new facility remains less clear.

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten is correct to question the viability of the Adams County Jail. Keeping law abiding citizens safe and protecting people incarcerated in the county jail are both on his list of responsibilities.

The jail threatens both.

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Both Patten and his predecessors have suggested the building is rife with problems, many of which pose risks to the health of inmates and staff. Other problems, the sheriff says, relate to mechanisms missing from the jail that cause the building to be less safe than a modern facility in the case of a fire.

Patten — like previous sheriff Chuck Mayfield — has brought the matter to the county supervisors, who have sidestepped the topic, suggesting it should be put on a ballot referendum.

We wish supervisors would simply stand up and lead — either support a new jail or not.

The idea of putting the matter on a ballot referendum is simply a political move aimed and dodging the responsibility should taxes need to increase to pay for the jail.

Patten suggested early estimates show a new jail facility would cost approximately $8 million. That doesn’t include the cost of demolishing the existing jail, which would seem difficult to repurpose.

Rather than simply punt the issue further down the road, why don’t we discuss it as a community, a community led by county supervisors?

In the same discussion, perhaps, we could discuss how at least part of the cost of a new jail could be paid for through savings made by consolidating city and county law enforcement and public works departments.

A discussion on that would be timely and possibly solve two problems — not enough money in city or county coffers and the need to upgrade the jail.