Anderson County Leaders Urge Public To Vote For New Jail

Those who run Anderson County say, if things continue the way they are now, a tax increase is unavoidable.

At issue is overcrowding at the jail in Palestine. Since August of last year, the sheriff has had to send inmates to neighboring counties just to keep them locked up.

E.G. Scarborough and a group of citizens say the time is now, and the answer from voters cannot be no.

"Part of [the debate over a new jail] is politics, but honestly one of the major things I think is people don't like to hear taxes."

County Judge Carey McKinney: "We're still sending out inmates on a daily basis. We had it down to about 35 last week and this weekend they sent out 15 more."

Judge McKinney sending out prisoners to be housed in other counties cost Anderson County $65,000 in December, and $56,000 last month. That's a figure Sheriff Greg Taylor says is wasted money.

"We can either spend our tax dollars shipping [inmates] to Limestone County, or wherever we have a contract with or we can facilitate them here," Taylor says.

They want a $12 million facility with as many as 300 beds.  That's more than twice the capacity of the current jail.

"It's going to be a money issue either way we go.  In my opinion, it makes sense to spend money right here at home," Taylor says.

On the other hand, within several years, continuing to move inmates could produce a cost of more than $1 million a year. They say that's the same as the yearly cost of passing a bond and building a new jail.

Taxes would go up more than six cents for every $100 dollars of a home's value, except for the elderly or disabled, whose taxes are already frozen.

"Unfortunatly, we are at a place in time where we have to do what we have to do."

The sheriff and jail committee hope for a bond election in May. County Judge McKinney warns if the bond doesn't pass, and if citizens won't pay to farm out more prisoners, county services might have to be cut back.

The only opposition to the new jail has come from Precinct 2 Commissioner Darrel Emanuel, who told KLTV in a written statement he feels the county is handling too many projects at once.

Town hall meetings will likely be held in March and April.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.