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Clay County voters reject $41 million dollar bond for new jail

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 7:54 PM CDT
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Vermillion S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Clay County residents voted against a proposed $41 million dollar bond measure Tuesday night that would have relocated the county offices, the law enforcement center, and jail away from the courthouse building.

Clay County Sheriff Andy Howe says the current jail is no longer useable. It currently shares space in the courthouse building. But that space is running out, and there is no more room to hold inmates.

Staff now plan to move inmates to neighboring Union County and hold them for a shorter time period.

“Going forward I believe that what we’ll do is reduce the length of stay to 72 hours, and that way we don’t have inmates held in those conditions for any great length of time and that will also reduce our inmate population,” said Sheriff Howe.

One of the main opponents to the bond vote was an organization called “Save Our Historic Courthouse.”

Members of the organization say they are glad the public voted against the bond, and they hope to work with county leaders and the sheriff to plan for a new jail or remodel while keeping the historic courthouse in use.

“We have never objected to the new jail concept,” said Dan Christopherson, member of Save Our Historic Courthouse. “We only objected to this particular cause because it called for the complete abandonment of the current courthouse in moving the jail, and all county services offsite to an undisclosed location.

Sheriff Howe says he knew the vote would be difficult due to cost and the tie-in to the courthouse, but he says this recent vote has costly implications.

“It’s not less expensive to vote no and not have a jail, it’s actually considerably more costly to not have a jail. We need to have a jail in this county, and we need to build one. The sooner the better,” said Howe. “The courthouse itself is an important issue and going forward we will probably see that separated.”

Clay County Commissioners and the Sheriff’s Office plan to meet Thursday to discuss what changes can be made in the future.

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