Simplified: The Minnehaha County Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve taking on up to $50 million in debt to build a new juvenile detention center. Here's a closer look at what that means and what happens next.
Why it matters
- The county has long known about the need to expand, remodel or rebuild the existing center – which was built in 1969 and most recently remodeled in 1995. Serious conversations on what to do started up last fall, and in October, the commission discussed plans to build new rather than renovate.
- The specifics of financing the new facility aren't completely ironed out, despite Tuesday's vote. At least one commissioner is still holding out some hope the state will kick in up to $10 million for the project to offset the need for a county tax increase.
- Even if the cost all comes down to the county, commissioners agreed this project needs to happen now to keep up with the need for more space, a safer layout for kids and more space for staff.
"Since I've been on the commission ... I think this is one of the few things that we’ve had where nobody has spoken in opposition to this project," Commission Chair Jean Bender said.
Tell me more about the proposed facility
As discussed back in October, the plan is to construct a new 67,000 square foot facility with capacity to hold 64 beds.
- The new building will be on the same campus as the existing facility – just north of Interstate 229 on West Avenue.
- With the new building, JDC will also switch to a layout that puts kids in eight-person pods, rather than along one long hallway. It's a structure officials say will be better both for kids and staff.
Phase two of the new facility would bring:
- a larger courtroom,
- a separate space for intake so kids coming in aren't using the same entrance as the general public,
- space for staff,
- and outdoor spaces for kids, visitors and staff.
Let's talk funding
After Tuesday's vote, the county now has the ability to take on up to $50 million in debt to build the facility – enough to cover the projected costs.
"It's expensive to build a jail," Commissioner Dean Karsky said. "And we’re not putting in Playstations and trampolines. This is the minimum."
The resulting tax increase if the county takes out the entire $50 million at once would mean the owner of a $300,000 house will pay about $50 in the first year, according to County Auditor Director Ben Kyte.
What happens next?
Figuring out the funding. It's not clear the county will choose to take out all the money right away.
Karsky said the state needs to pitch in – especially since about a quarter of the kids at JDC come there by way of the state Department of Corrections.
"We really have one more chance to try to get a legislator ... we're still working that angle," he said.