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Bannock County Jail to be on May Ballot


POCATELLO — Members of the jail advisory board met with Bannock County Commissioners Wednesday morning to discuss findings and decisions concerning the Bannock County Jail expansion.

Members of the board proposed a bond vote be held during the May primary election rather than in the November general election.

County Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of the committee’s proposal to include the bond election on the May ballot.

Residents will vote on a 260-bed jail expansion with an estimated cost of $18 million. Commissioners rejected another option that would cost $14.5 million for a 160-bed expansion.

Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said overcrowding in the jail has been a problem for over year and it’s growing. He’s happy about the way things are unfolding and said he’s glad the public will have input on this issue.

“It’s always a toss up,” Nielsen told “I think the public is aware of it. There are going to be some people that will vote no because they’re against raising taxes period. But at least we’re giving them an opportunity to weigh in because they’re the ones that are going to pay for it and I like that process.”

The jail committee met on five separate occasions before presenting their findings to the commissioners. During those meetings, discussions were held with various law enforcement officials, construction professionals with expertise in jail building and experts in mental health and substance abuse rehabilitation.

Ten objectives were presented form the jail advisory board including:

– determining if overcrowding at the facility merits adding to the current facility
– if the size and plan for the proposed expansion meets current and future needs
– determining if construction maintenance costs are reasonable

The board concluded that overcrowding justifies an expansion of the existing facility. In the advisory’s official report to commissioners, they also determined costs were concurrent with similar sized projects and that the expansion would suit current and future needs.

Costs of hiring staff to maintain the proposed facility is separate from the initial construction costs of the proposed $18 million.

The advisory board also questioned other options instead of expansion – including a drug/alcohol treatment center as a viable alternative.

Commissioner Howard Manwaring expressed some reservations concerning the proposed expansion of the jail.

“I believe that treatment is still something that’s desperately needed in east Idaho– drug and alcohol and mental health treatment,” Manwaring said.

Although he does believe availably of treatment is imperative, it poses a separate issue than the jail expansion. The committee recommended commissioners find funding and decide on this topic apart from the county jail decision.

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