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Fixing the jail

Last fall, Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan said it would be “irresponsible” to use county reserves to fund renovation work at the Madison County Jail. But on Wednesday, that’s exactly what the County Board agreed to do.

The change in attitude resulted when voters put the kibosh on the county borrowing $18 million to fund the jail work. County residents collected 23,000 signatures to force the county to let the voters decide. They said no to borrowing.

Dunstan groused recently that using cash reserves will mean the jail work has to be done in stages and ultimately will cost the taxpayers more. We don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future. But we agree with the voters; it made no sense to borrow money when the county has millions of dollars in reserve.

The county has hired an architect to prioritize the jail work. Maybe as part of that county leaders will get a new perspective on what’s necessary and what’s optional. They might even decide that not all of it really needs to be done, or that some work could be scaled back. Maybe the costs ultimately will be less rather than more.

It’s much easier to be big spenders when you’re borrowing money than when you’re tapping savings.