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Washington County residents to vote on Justice Center in May

Posted: 6:41 PM, Apr 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-18 08:02:29-04

Blair resident Dennis McCormick was in favor of expanding the county jail a few years ago, but after that smaller plan got rescinded and new leadership took over the county, he's less keen on spending big money on a large justice facility and thinks the cost will rise well over the proposed $24.5 million price tag. 

"Whenever there is a bond issue they really ask for more than they really need. But I think a lot of this is want, and it's not really need,” says McCormick. 

One thing is certain, Washington County needs to do something. The current jail houses only 15 inmates, but the average jail population of 36, keeps growing. 

This arrangement has made deputies taxi drivers, shuttling inmates to other jails in the eastern part of the state at a hefty cost to the sheriff's department.

"It's been needed for a number of years and we've finally hit, what I believe, a critical point of mass and it needs to be resolved.” says Robert Bellamy, jail administrator.

Even fiscal conservatives think a tax hike now will pay off in the long run. 

"We at all times and everything want to shrink the size of government at all levels. This will cap the size of our future taxes, it's actually the responsible thing to do." John Orr, Chairman of the Washington County Republicans

The new facility would also feature separate inmate walkways so they can stop using public hallways when court is in session. 

"They're currently walking the same hallways that the people use to conduct their business in the court house are in."

If the vote fails, supporters say there's really not a plan B, they'll just have to smack a band-aid on a huge wound.