To the Editor:
On Aug. 6, the voters of Dallas County are being asked to vote on the following question: “Shall the County of Dallas, State of Iowa, issue its General Obligation Bonds in an amount not exceeding the amount of $16,850,000 for the purpose of constructing, erecting, equipping and furnishing a new Administration/Public Safety building, to be constructed on County-owned property?”
As sheriff since 2007 during a time of dramatic population growth, I hope the residents of our county will consider my perspective as they weigh their decision. During my time in office, I have been committed to protecting the public safety by leading a highly professional department in the most cost-efficient manner.
Because Dallas County does not have the jail space to house the growing number of inmates, the sheriff’s department is sending more inmates to Polk County at a cost of $55 per inmate per day. Over the course of a year, relying on Polk County to house our inmates is costing Dallas County tens of thousands of dollars each year in housing and transportation costs.
Our jail’s overcrowding problems are nothing new.
In 1989, the jail had 24 actual beds and 12 temporary beds. In1999, the state gave us 12 additional beds on loan with the understanding that Dallas County would address jail deficiencies in the future. Unfortunately, another pressing need took priority when we learned the courthouse was in danger of falling in on itself.
In May 2010, the state jail inspector indicated the jail staff was “doing an exceptional job with a facility that does not meet current needs.” In May 2011, the inspector wrote that “Dallas County Jail is an older facility that does not meet the current needs of the county.”
Last year, with the county’s population more than doubled since 1997, the state took back permission for those 12 beds, returning the jail’s status to 24 actual beds and 12 temporary ones.
In looking toward the future, the proposed administration/public safety building in east Adel just makes sense. This new structure will alleviate burdens placed upon Dallas County by the state, which has granted us a waiver for additional beds on a temporary basis. The new jail would create 90 beds – eliminating the cost of transporting and housing inmates in Polk County while meeting the new criteria established by the state of Iowa.
The Sheriff’s Office at that time had approximately 30 employees who all worked within the building, including nine who worked in the jail. Today, the department has 64 full- and part-time employees and 12 reserves. Twenty four of these employees work in the jail. As a result, many Sheriff’s offices have had to move to other spaces. Those employees would function better in a unified office.
I encourage the residents of our county to consider all the facts, which are available on the county’s informational website, www.dallascountyfuture.com, as they weigh the Aug. 6 ballot question.
Sheriff Chad Leonard