Bond Referendum Could Give Howard County New Law Enforcement Center, Jail

April 20, 2017 10:50 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Jail safety and security is a big part of what keeps law enforcement running efficiently and smoothly every day, and a 135-year-old jail in Iowa is asking for help for a much-needed update.

The Howard County Jail opened its doors in 1882. Since then, there have been many additions and renovations, but citizens and authorities said the current condition of the jail is nowhere near where it needs to be.


“It's like your automobile, sooner or later it gets to the point where there's so much wrong with it, you just have to replace your vehicle," former Howard County dispatcher Ernie Martin said.

Martin worked as a dispatcher for the Howard County Sheriff’s Office for three years.

"Every year, when the jail inspector comes, it's 'fix this and fix this and fix this,' well it's finally gotten to the point where we can't fix it anymore," Howard County Sheriff Mike Miner said.  

There's a current bond referendum for Howard County that would give the law enforcement center some much-needed cash.

If county residents approve the referendum, $5 million will be put towards a brand new facility.

"It'll be a whole new structure for public safety building, which would house the 911 center, the Howard County Sheriff's office and it would house the Howard County jail,” Miner said.  

However, if Howard County does not receive a new jail, the jail inspector may force them to close their doors, which would make it more difficult for officers that would have to drive to neighboring county jails.

"If it fails, we feel that somewhere down the road the state jail inspector is probably going to say either close the door on the jail, or basically just close it," Miner said.

The new jail would be paid through taxes by the public, and although it may seem like a lot, Martin said it is absolutely necessary.

"I'm sure the feeling around town is nobody wants to spend the money to build a new jail, but we need to realize that this isn't something new," Martin said.  

The bond vote will take place on May 2.


Elise Romas

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