Madison County tables jail bonds vote

News-DemocratSeptember 18, 2013 

— It will be at least another month before the County Board decides whether to borrow funds for an $18 million jail renovation.

The jail bond resolution was tabled after a lengthy and confused discussion at the Madison County Board meeting Wednesday.

The jail's renovation and repairs are estimated to cost $18 million. Renewing the current jail bonds will raise approximately $6 million, county officials said; the remainder would have to be new bonds.

The board was to vote on a measure Wednesday that would have approved a 30-day public examination period for the jail bonds.

Board member Lisa Ciampoli proposed an amendment that would call for an advisory referendum to appear on the March 2014 ballot for the voters.

But state's attorney Tom Gibbons advised them that the county board actually does not have the legal authority to place the jail bonds on the ballot. The only way for that to happen, Gibbons said, is for a petition signed by 10 percent of registered voters to be filed within 30 days of the board's vote. Any vote by the county board would have no legal effect, he said.

Ciampoli then moved to table her motion, which passed 16-12. County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan then moved the meeting along, and no further votes took place on the jail bond issue. Dunstan and Gibbons said later that the vote was to table the entire vote, not just Ciampoli's amendment.

But after the meeting, several board members said they thought they were only voting to table the amendment, not the entire issue.

Some board members requested that a whole-board meeting take place similar to the meeting of Aug. 28, a nonvoting meeting in which questions could be asked and answered about the funding of the project.

Dunstan agreed, but finished the meeting by informing the members that no one had said the jail project is not needed.

"Folks, the jail has no sprinklers. What are we going to do when they tell us, 'You cannot house prisoners there because the building doesn't met code'?" Dunstan said. "I'm open-minded about this. Tell me how you want to fund the project. That's the issue."

Finance Committee Chairman Jack Minner had advised against a delay to the next election. "At the present time, the interest rates are lower than they will be in six months or a year," Minner said. "It saves us a lot of money to do this now."

Dunstan said while some have suggested using the county's $116 million in funds to pay for the project, all but $22 million of it is tied up in restricted funds and grants that cannot be legally used for the jail.

If the County Board had approved the measure, it would have been placed on display for 30 days and voted again at the next meeting. It would also have allowed any petition drive to place the issue on the ballot to begin.

Since the board did not approve the measure, Gibbons said any petitions passed now would not be valid.

"By tabling the issue, it actually prevents it from going to the voters," Gibbons said.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at or 239-2507.

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