By Robin Fornoff
CMI PROJECTS EDITOR
Frustrated Curry County commissioners made it clear Tuesday there won’t be any new attempts to build a new jail or renovate the troubled existing facility with the latest bond issue failure.
“I think we’ve tried about every angle we could try,” an exhausted and admittedly stressed Commissioner Ben McDaniel said Tuesday night after voters overwhelmingly rejected a $9.88 million bond issue to build a new jail.
Voters were asked to renew an existing bond for 20 years and use the money generated for building a new $13 million jail. The bond issue failed by more than 2 to 1.
It failed in every precinct and in absentee and early voting.
It was the third defeat of a jail bond measure since 2010.
McDaniel said he believed the measure failed because the commission waited too long to develop a plan and get essential information to voters.
“The timeliness of information,” McDaniel said. “But after tonight, I don’t think people want to spend money on it.”
“I hate to hear that,” said Commission Chairman Frank Blackburn, contacted at home. “I just thought it would be the other way around.”
Blackburn said there are no plans to renovate the jail, other than to complete a $500,000 kitchen renovation being forced on the county by the state.
“I think the voters missed a good opportunity,” Blackburn said. “Interest rates are at an historic low rate right now.”
Commissioner Robert Sandoval, who waited for results with McDaniel at the county clerk’s office, said the message from voters was clear. Sandoval said he will have nothing to do with any attempt to change things at the jail for the rest of his 18 months as a commissioner.
“Because the people have told me to my face they flat don’t want it,” said Sandoval. “I’m stubborn, but I’m not that stubborn.”
About 10 percent of the county’s eligible voters — 2,232 — cast ballots in the special election. There are 23,165 registered voters.
Some 886 votes were cast in absentee and early voting that ended Friday. The measure was defeated 615 to 271 by absentee and early voters.
Commissioners announced plans in May to renew the bond used to pay for the Events Center and on schedule to be paid off next year. But details of the proposed new jail, including an architect’s plan and a location for the jail didn’t start becoming public until several weeks ago.
Officials admitted part of the rush was because the bond issue was set to be paid off.
Renewing the bond meant no increase in property taxes. Commissioners pushed hard selling it that way during a crush of numerous meetings with agricultural, business and political groups in the final weeks running up to the election.
Most of the commissioners believed locating the new jail outside of downtown Clovis on property donated by the city near its landfill was another strong selling point. Additionally, they said $1 million annually could be saved — about the amount the county spends each year housing inmates in other counties.
“I really don’t have a clue,” said Commissioner Wendell Bostwick. “We’ve tried everything the voters have told us they wanted.”
Bostwick said any talk of privatizing the jail is little more than a pipe dream. He said no private company will take over the existing jail.
“I can tell you what’s going to happen,” Bostwick said. “We’ll spend $700,000 to $1 million a year to send them (inmates) out of town. And there will be escapes. And we’ll have lawsuits because we cannot classify or segregate them properly in this facility.”