Law enforcement, citizens group push for new safety center in Clay County

A new public safety center in Vermillion would house a new jail, as well as become the new home...
A new public safety center in Vermillion would house a new jail, as well as become the new home for the city’s Police Department and Clay County Sheriff’s Office.(Dakota News Now)
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 3:50 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

VERMILLION, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Public Safety Center in Vermillion has been the home of the city’s police department and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office for more than 30 years. But just like many other cities and counties around South Dakota, they’ve outgrown their space, and now they’re looking for a new home.

A new public safety center in Vermillion would house a new jail, as well as become the new home for the city’s Police Department and Clay County Sheriff’s Office. This isn’t the first time a proposal for a new center has been voted on. Just last year, voters in Clay County turned down a proposal to build a new jail and courthouse.

“The bond issue failed. Primarily, because we felt like most people that opposed it, opposed the courthouse replacement. They didn’t have so much concern about the jail itself,” Clay County Sheriff Andy Howe said. “The problems in the jail are well documented and unfixable. So we revisited the issue, and are now bringing in a bond issue to replace the jail and public safety center, that need changes, need improvement and we can’t do it in the current facility.”

Instead the two law enforcement groups are bringing forward a new vote to build just a new jail and law enforcement center, citing crowding issues in their current space.

“Our sergeants, there’s three of them that are sharing a small office together. Our squad room has 11 officers that share one space together with three computers.” Vermillion Police Chief Crystal Brady said.

The total asking amount of the bond issue is $42.8 million. While the cost of the last bond vote for a new jail and courthouse was $41 million, Howe said this takes into count the rising costs of building supplies and inflation. He warns though that waiting will only drive up the cost even more.

“We know that it will be more expensive. The time to build this was long ago. But the better time is right now. We know that in the future, it will cost even more to build. As expensive as it is, it will only get worse.” Howe said.

There’s also a push from a citizens group, the “Citizens for the New Public Safety Center” group. Chair Steve Waller said the new public safety center could still help alleviate space in the current courthouse, a main push in the first bond issue vote last year.

“We can use the current public safety center to help alleviate some of that crowding. So it’s really the first of multiple steps the county can take. But it’s a big first step, and it needs to be done now.” Waller said.

The bond vote will be on the November ballot, with early voting starting already on Friday. A public information by the “Citizens for the New Public Safety Center” group will be hosted at the Vermillion Public Library September 19 at 6:30 p.m.