Fillmore County Sheriff’s Candidates spar over jail proposals

(ABC 6 News) – This November, voters in Fillmore County will have a chance to choose who they want to be their sheriff. Voters can point to one topic in particular, that separates the candidates: the county jail.

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In 2017, the Minnesota Department of Corrections told Fillmore County that their jail was not up to code.

“The jail is one of the oldest jails in the state of Minnesota,” said Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge.

County officials then had three options. The county could close down the jail, and send inmates to neighboring counties. The county could also re-do the jail as-is. They can currently hold inmates for 90 days. The third option is to re-do the jail, but add a 365-day facility where they can hold inmates year-round.

When DeGeorge took office in 2019, he conducted a study that he believes shows the county needs a 365-day jail. He also says this is the most cost-effective option.

“Transporting them to and from different jails becomes very expensive because we have to add deputies and we have to add staff to do those transports,” he argued. DeGeorge is running for re-election, he says to see construction through and keep connected to the community.

According to an early design proposal, construction for a new jail would cost around $7.5 million. Candidate Tom Kaase argues the cost is too high. In a time when the county may already see increased property taxes, he doesn’t want the rebuild to add to that.

Kaase has decades of law enforcement experience and spent four years as Fillmore County Sheriff. He says he is running again for Fillmore County Sheriff, to fight against the jail remodel.

“There’s a need for greater accountability, greater fiscal responsibility, and greater transparency,” Kaase said.

Kaase argues that Fillmore County could follow suit of other counties around the state like Dodge County, and outsource to other county jails. He alleges DeGeorge’s study was incomplete.

“What they indicate as the cost of transportation is flawed. It’s completely slanted to build a jail,” he said.

That study can be found here. The County Board of Commissioners are planning on hearing an updated design proposal with an updated cost at their meeting on Tuesday.