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home : news : news Sunday, May 29, 2016

5/28/2014 Email this articlePrint this article 
Site selection, bond scenarios next step for jail planning

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

Members of the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission (CCJCC) will begin identifying potential sites and gathering information on bond referendum scenarios and tax rates as they proceed with plans for construction of a new county jail.

The commission also will begin recruiting residents for an advisory committee to help with public outreach efforts to convince voters a new jail is needed.

Sheriff Rick Lincoln said May 22 bond planning, site selection and public outreach are the next steps in the jail planning process after the release of a jail needs assessment in April that called for construction of a new, 96-bed jail at a cost of $18.9 million.

The commission needs an advisory group of citizens to learn about the county's jail needs and advocate for a bond referendum necessary for the jail project to proceed, Lincoln said.

"We have to make sure our public is well educated in this matter so they can make an informed decision if and when we go for a bond referendum," he said.

The commission also needs to engage a bond counsel to assist in meeting legal requirements for a bond referendum and a bond consultant to arrange the sale of the bonds, Lincoln said.

An important question will be what a bond issue will cost today compared with what it will cost a few years down the road based on interest rates, Lincoln noted.

Shive Hattery, which prepared the jail needs assessment for the commission, estimated construction inflation costs at 4 percent per year, Lincoln said, which alone would add about $800,000 per year to the cost of a $20 million facility.

Commissioners reviewed the county's bond history, which includes a $1.9 million bond in 2009 for road improvements, $4.5 million in 2010 for road improvements and $6.1 million in 2010 for the Lincolnway Railport.

All of the bonds were for 10-year terms, "So we have six years before all our bond debt is gone," Lincoln said.

Clinton County is levying about $1.3 million per year in property taxes to cover the cost of the existing bonds, county supervisor Brian Schmidt noted.

County auditor Eric Van Lancker said it's possible the county could pay off the railport bonds early with proceeds from land sales if the industrial park continues to develop.

Van Lancker said a bond counsel will assist the county with bonding scenarios, tax rates and other technical details, while a bond consultant will arrange the actual bond sale with financial institutions.

The Clinton County Board of Supervisors hired Springsted Inc. as its bond consultant for the prior bond issues and the Ahlers and Cooney law firm as bond counsel.

Van Lancker said he's already been contacted by firms offering bond consulting services at no cost to the county in order to get a foot in the door for a possible bond sale.

"I think one of them would be more than happy to run some numbers out for us as we lead into a referendum," Van Lancker said.

Commissioners discussed which step to pursue next, ultimately deciding site selection, public outreach and bond planning need to happen simultaneously.

Clerk of court Kim Hess said site selection information is important because it will have a big impact on the public outreach component.

"I personally think we need an idea of where we're going to build. That's what people want to know. 'Where is it going to be?' That's what everybody asks," Hess said.

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