Decision on New County Jail Could Come in July

Will they or won’t they? The Antelope County Board of Supervisors next month will have to make a decision regarding the future of the Antelope County Jail.
A committee comprised of citizens and elected officials from across the county has been discussing the issue and will, by the end of June, forward their final recommendations to the supervisors for final action.
Under consideration is construction of a new 30-bed county jail, the location to be south of the Antelope County Weed District building in Neligh.
The problems with the current jail date back many years, according to Sheriff Bob Moore, before he took office. Issues like security, officer safety, being in non-compliance with requirements set forth by the Nebraska Jail Standards, physical issues like water leakageplumbing, kitchen, as well as the American Disabilities Act and HIPAA. The issue, Moore said, came to a head, when representatives from Nebraska Jail Standards informed him shortly after being sworn into office that the ‘grandfather clause’ which had protected the jail in past years, would no longer exclude Antelope County from maintaining current standards.
Moore said the committee, comprised of Vicki Miller, LeRoy Kerkman, Sheriff Moore, Tina Snider, Jennifer Carr, Mike Wright, Jerry Schwager, Brad Higgins and John Meuret, are meeting this week to discuss budget and location issues before making their final report to the supervisors.
They considered four options before choosing the location near the weed district building. They included closing the jail and shipping all prisoners out of Antelope County, building a new jail at a new location, adding on to the current jail site, or putting a new jail on the courthouse grounds. Moore said information provided to the group by Scott LUndberg of Prochaska & Associates, made it clear the best option was a new facility because there isn’t enough room at the current location, the courthouse location doesn’t work because of a well field which is utilized for thermal cooling and heating and another spot has a city sewer line going through it. Closing the jail would require contracting with another county at an estimated cost of nearly $6.8 million over the next 20 years.
So, the committee is considering building a 30-bed facility which would cost taxpayers just over $6,711,000 at current prices for materials. When completed, the facility would meet existing jail standards providing separate ‘pods’ which would meet the necessary requirements for space and separating male and female prisoners. Also, Moore said, it would be possible to expand in the future, if necessary.
The decision will rest with the supervisors. The committee, meeting today (June 13) will make a final report to the supervisors to likely act on in July. Moore explained what options the supervisors will have. They are as follows:
1) The supervisors will vote whether or not to build a new jail facility
2) If they vote to build a new jail, the supervisors will, Moore said, have to decide how to pay for it. One option would be a ‘nickel’ tax, or they could use bonds, or they could pursue a lease/purchase option.
Moore said there is another course of action the supervisors could take. That would be to let the taxpayers decide what needs to be done with the jail. The supervisors could hold a special election and let the voters decide whether to build or not. Moore said if the voters approved it, the supervisors would then have to decide how to pay for it.
One thing is for certain, the actions taken over the next few weeks by the county supervisors