Lincoln County residents will determine the fates of a new law enforcement center in Tea and the courthouse in Canton.
The commissioners behind the ballot decision this coming Tuesday were split on whether the county should or should not issue a $50 million bond to fund the projects.
Commissioners earlier this year voted 3-2 for the bond but changed that decision this summer after one resident sued the county. The suit argued the commission required at least four votes to validate the motion.
So, the commission voted to put the bond issue in the hands of the public but tied both the new jail and courthouse repairs under one bond. That led to another 3-2 vote.
Commissioner Michael Poppens and two other commissioners voted in support of both projects. In a meeting this month, Poppens says the county is outpacing its development.
“The unfortunate part of growth is the side effects that comes. And that has to do with the sheer number of prisoners we are seeing consistently grow. We need to be prepared for it.”
Lincoln County currently has a contract with nine nearby counties to house its inmates. Commissioners in favor of the new jail say the space will accommodate a growing number of incarcerations.
In August, the commission once again voted 3-2 to purchase 155 acres of land near Tea for the proposed public safety center for about $1.4 million.
Commissioner Joel Arends is one of two members who opposes the costs associated with building the jail. He says the entire commission supports repairing the courthouse, but funding for a new jail is not appropriate when the number of prisoners remains manageable.
“When it comes to local law enforcement issues, jails, county infrastructure, we only have county property taxes to rely upon. We do not have a diverse enough tax base at the county level to be able to engage in these kinds of very large infrastructure projects.”
The amount of taxes raised could vary if voters approve the bond. The County Auditor’s office estimates taxes could increase by about $83 for a $250,000 home over 30 years if the bond is approved.
Should voters decide against the bond, the commission could reconsider the proposal in the future.