The possibility of a new jail facility has long been a discussion in Houghton County. County commissioners brought up the topic again this week after having design blueprints created for feasibility.
After a proposal for a $15 million jail facility was struck down by voters in 2010, the Houghton County Board of Commissioners looked into other options.
Houghton County Sheriff Brian McLean and commissioners agree that the county has been in need of a new jail for nearly three decades. The current jail only has 28 beds, which McLean said just this morning, they served breakfast to 32 inmates.
â??Jail population overcrowding is one,â?? said McLean. â??We have zero program space. Plumbing and electrical is falling behind. This was built in â??63.â??
â??Itâ??s hard to want something for people that are incarcerated,â?? added Houghton City Commissioner, Scott Ala. â??Do we need a new jail? I would encourage anybody, if you think we don't, take a walk through it. I completely believe that we need a new jail. I know we need a new jail. Thereâ??s no question about it. I donâ??t believe anybody has properly investigated a new jailâ??what we actually need here.â??
The plans were created to see if a certain lot behind the courthouse was a practical alternative.
McLean and Ala believe, though, that a new facility altogether could be the best option.
â??It was kind of, letâ??s see what it would look like, see what it might cost, and would that be a good option or not, and none of those have been decided yet,â?? McLean explained. â??We really look at this as just educating people to what we do, why we do it, how we do it. Is there a problem there? Yes, there is. How are we going to solve the problem? I donâ??t know. I donâ??t know. Thatâ??s something that weâ??ll have to work together on.â??
The feasibility plan would allow the jail to have about 60 to 70 new beds in the facility, but the main part of the design includes taking out the back parking lot behind the courthouse.
â??This is not a good solution,â?? said Ala. â??Itâ??s not something that, if, in fact, we needed to add on down the road, would this be a viable solution?â??
Ala maintains that before a new layout is created, a plan needs to be set in place for how the county will accomplish the job first.
â??I donâ??t know that some of these are worth our while to look into when you donâ??t even have the plan in place of how you want people to buy into it,â?? he said.
Ala said no formal decisions have been made, and board negotiations on the matter are still premature.