Saline County Jail Proposes Expansion

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Since the day it opened, overcrowding at the Saline County jail has been an issue.

“At the time that we moved into this facility about 18 months ago, we had 49 beds that were available. Within two weeks after we moved in, the beds were all filled,” says Saline County Commissioner, Willis Luedke.

The state Fire Marshall allowed an additional five beds into the jail but that wasn’t enough. When designing the new jail facility less than two years ago, studies showed that Saline County itself would only need 20 to 25 beds, but that didn’t account for inmates coming in from other counties.

“The U.S. Marshall Service would like for us to have more beds so we can house more inmates for them.” says Luedke.

When the current jail facility was under construction, the U.S. Marshall Service gave the county jail a half a million dollars up front to help with the costs.

Luedke says they have a good agreement with the U.S. Marshall. “We signed an agreement wit them where we would provide a total of 20 beds for 15 years, from day one they have exceeded that number of beds that they have been using.”

Saline jail is at full capacity. The flow of revenue they would receive if the facility was larger would help pay for other things.

“After the expansion is paid for, the net profit which will be 500 to 600 thousand dollars a year off the 35 bed expansion can be used to retire the bonds on the present facility.” says Luedke.

Not all residents of the county have the same feelings on the expansion.

Scott Havel of Wilbur says, “Sometimes taxes will go away if you spend a little more, and while the opportunity’s here now, why not take advantage of it, because it might not be here in the future.”

“We don’t need an expansion on the jail here. It’s large enough now for this county, we don’t need a penitentiary.” says Lee Schmoldt of Wilbur.

The bond issue will be voted on this Tuesday.