Just as contractors were cutting the bars out of the old Cleveland County jail atop the courthouse, a committee began considering the design of a new jail. Cleveland County's Jail Committee took a trip east this week to look at a new, high-tech jail built in Pottawatomie County. That $7 million, 241-bed detention center opened May 4 in northwest Shawnee.

The reason for the visit is our county has a space problem in the current jail, which opened in 1984 to replace the jail atop the courthouse which is being remodeled for District Court offices. We will eventually need to either build on to the current facility or build a new one. It often operates over capacity and the state health department is keeping a watch on the daily numbers.

Cleveland County also has a vested interest in the new Shawnee jail. We are contracting with commissioners in that county to house some of our extra prisoners. They take a minimum of 20 inmates per day for which taxpayers pay $28 per day or $204,000 a year. That doesn't count the cost of deputies transporting prisoners back and forth to Shawnee or the transportation expenses. Overall, it could add up to a pretty hefty chunk of change.

The existing jail could be remodeled and space added but a better solution would be to plan and build a new facility that would accommodate the county's growing population. A regional approach is preferred with other counties participating. Input is needed from police and sheriff's departments throughout the area.

We're not sure where such a facility should be built or how it could be paid for but commissioners have proven they know how to put money aside for projects. The county office building expansion is being paid for through money commissioners banked over the years.

Some counties have opted for a temporary sales tax to build detention centers. Cleveland County has never had a sales tax and it is unclear how voters would act in such a campaign. The committee will look north and east to Sapulpa this week, hoping to get some more ideas on building the best, safest and most appropriate detention center for our county.

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