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LETTERS: Questions for jail committee

Questions for jail committee

To the editor:

We appreciate the fact that the Marion County Jail Committee has asked for questions and comments from the public. We welcome the opportunity to do so.

We toured the jail when Sheriff Becker opened it to the public and came away with the conclusion that the structure was wholly inadequate and well beyond repair.

But the building of a new facility raises a multitude of questions, which presumably the current process intends to make clear to the public.

Even in a community with as small a population as Marion County, not everyone knows everyone else. The only information we have about committee members is geographical.

Perhaps the committee could provide short biographical profiles of its members to our area newspapers.

Would the committee request that state and federal guideline mandates for a jail facility be made available to the public, perhaps placing copies in the office of our newspapers and at our libraries? (Presumably they are too voluminous to publish in our newspapers.)

Would statistics pertaining to the county jail bookings and inmates during the past 10 to 20 years be similarly provided?

How many women prisoners have been incarcerated and for how long?

What was the average age of the jail population?

What type of crime had the person committed?

This certainly is relevant in determining the nature and size of the facility.

Would the committee request and share information obtained from state and federal agencies and share information about the projected population of Marion County in the next 10 to 20 years?

It does not take a Topeka bureaucrat to tell us that the citizens of Marion County are among the state’s most senior.

The area school systems are aware of continuing declining school enrollments. Are there projections for enrollment figures?

It has been automatically assumed that the jail population will rise. Why? (Remember, higher crime rates are associated with a younger population.) How was the figure of 26 beds determined?

Would it be possible to send women prisoners and inmates with physical disabilities out of county for incarceration? Would there be a financial saving by not being forced to construct a building equipped to handle them here?

What type of prisoner does Morris County transport to other jails? The most dangerous? The least?

The Jail Committee has tentatively selected a household tax of $10 a month to pay for jail construction. How was this figure determined when at the current time we do not have a figure for the construction of the facility? Was it thought that a $10 amount was the most the citizens would ante up without protest?

How would a household tax be levied?

Would businesses be taxed, as well as residents?

Would retirement home residents each pay the tax? Would nursing homes pay a tax per resident or per building?

Who would be assessed tax on rental property — the owner of the building or its occupants?

What about residents at Marion County Lake? Would each home be taxed at the same rate? What of those who come to the lake only a few months a year? Would they pay $120 too?

What of the visitors who rent the mobile homes at the lake? Would they be taxed?

How will the construction be immediately financed? A contractor is not going to take monthly payments for 10 years. How then; a bridge loan, bond issue? These will also add to the cost.

It has been promised that the household tax would be levied only until the building is paid for. Can any taxpayer enumerate a tax that has, once assessed, ever gone away?

Obviously the county has not the funds to operate a bigger jail, which the new facility will certainly be. Where will the money come from? More taxes. This proposed new tax is not going to go away. It cannot. And to say it will is disingenuous.

Make no mistake this tax will necessarily mean that some Marion County residents will have to pick and choose what must be given up or done without in order to send Marion County an additional $120 a year. To some people this will mean little. To others the choice might be very serious.

Utility rates are apt to skyrocket. Will someone be forced to make a choice between paying for heat or paying for a jail?

Does the committee foresee recommending a location for the jail to the County Commissioners as being part of its charge?

The committee is of the opinion that a $10 a month tax to cover construction of the jail need not be voted upon by the public! Surely this is too important a matter NOT to be put to a vote.

It is interesting and of concern how often a governmental body wants to keep its functioning out of the eyes of the public. We are trying to become as informed on the subject of the jail construction as possible. But what is the point of doing so, if the public is not allowed to express our opinions through a vote?

Our last conclusion is more generalized. Our taxes are too high. We live in one of the most highly taxed states in the union. Visitors are dumfounded simply by the amount of our sales tax.

Kansas is one of the few states that taxes grocery sales. And yet whenever the government has to provide one of the services a government is supposed to provide we have to have another tax to pay for it.

Be that as it may, let’s build a new jail and yes, we will pay for it some way.

Families plan for rainy days and try to prepare.

Why is this ability immediately lost upon taking the oath of office?

Paul and Jeanice Thomas

Marion

Last modified June 25, 2009

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