(Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, January 23, 2014 12:02 PM
JENNINGS — Jeff Davis Parish voters will vote on a proposed sales tax increase to fund the maintenance and operation of a new parish jail.
The Police Jury voted Wednesday to put the 10-year, half-cent sales tax on the May 3 ballot. If approved, it would raise about $2.1 million to be used to run the jail, including costs to feed inmates and provide medical care.
The sales tax increase would take effect July 1, according to Police Jury President Donald Woods. Passage of the tax is vital to the future of the parish jail, he said.
“If it doesn’t pass, there will be more criminals walking around like they are now,” Woods said. “We really need it because of the lack of space. We can’t arrest anybody and put them in jail.”
The new jail would also save the parish money on upkeep of an outdated facility that is in need of major repairs, he said.
The current jail, built in 1964, can house only 62 inmates and has major issues with an outdated sewer system, inadequate lighting and a lack of proper security measures.
Plans for the new jail call for a facility that will incorporate the parish jail and the municipal jails in Jennings, Welsh and Lake Arthur. Most of the sheriff’s administration offices, including the 911 Center, would also be relocated to the new jail.
A 2012 study by McNeese State University economics professor Michael M. Kurth and accounting professor Daryl V. Burkel recommended the parish build an $8 million, 180- to 200-inmate jail with annual operating costs of $2.35 million.
Based on the report, the cost to operate the new facility would be $32.15 per inmate per day — $12.21 less than the $44.36 cost to run all four facilities independently.
The State Bond Commission approved $10 million in funding for the new jail in October.
The approval includes $835,000 in first-year funding for planning and construction and an additional $9.1 million in future funding. The Police Jury has committed $480,000 from an oil and gas lawsuit settlement for the project.
Parish officials are still mulling plans for the new jail, including location.
The former Southern Barbecue manufacturing facility on U.S. 90 just west of Jennings is among the options being considered.
Properties to the east and west of the facility have been offered to the parish, Woods said.
Plans for a new jail have failed twice since 1998 when voters defeated a half-cent sales tax that would have funded construction of a jail and paid for Sheriff’s Office salaries.
Voters also overwhelmingly rejected a sales tax increase in May 2009 for a $12 million jail and administration office. The tax would have generated $1.1 million a year to build and maintain a 228-inmate facility just east of the parish courthouse in Jennings.
Posted By: David Leonard On: 1/25/2014
We have people in our community who live from paycheck to paycheck and a lot of people on fixed income. We don't have all the tax money coming in like Calcasieu parish. You'll want build a multimillion dollar jail to house criminals so they can live in comfort with all their medical bills paid and 3 meals a day while everyone else struggle to make ends meet. I have a better idea. Do like the sherriff in Arizona, put up big tents with electric and razor wire fencing around it. Would be a fraction of the cost. I will vote against the tax.