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Lawrence County law enforcement sales tax proposes building a bigger, safer jail

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 7:41 AM CDT
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MT. VERNON, Mo. (KY3) - Lawrence County voters will decide whether the county should construct a new jail and sheriff’s office.

If voters approve the 3/8 cent law enforcement tax on November 2, construction will begin for a new 120-bed facility. The current Lawrence County jail was built in the 1980s. Staff says it is overcrowded. The county staffs nearly half of its prisoners in other counties, costing taxpayers about $500,000 per year.

“As a responsible person, dealing with the counties and taxpayer’s money, we just feel that sending all that money to other counties is money that we could have reinvested in our county,” said Lawrence County Shariff Brad DeLay. “We’re essentially are wasting taxpayer’s money by sending it to other counties.”

In 2018, voters approved a similar tax funding the sheriff’s office and current Lawrence County Justice Center. A portion of those funds was saved after the sheriff’s office operated under budget, providing $873,000 toward the new jail if voters approve the issue.

“I’m probably the first person that’s going to tell you that I hate taxes,” said Sheriff DeLay. “I hate a new tax increase every time you go somewhere, they want you to pay more, but as a realist, if you want services such as good schools, good libraries, good roads, protection for law enforcement in for citizens, you’re going to have to pay for it. That stuff’s not free.”

The city of Mt.Vernon sold 8.5 acres of land to the county for $1 on the condition that construction begins on a new jail in the next five years. If the vote fails, the land will go back to the city. The land is valued at $120,000 located at Commercial Park South.

If voters approve the law enforcement tax, the new jail would cost between $15-$18 million. There will be a town hall meeting on October 28 at 7 p.m. at the historic Lawrence County Courthouse, where county commissioners will answer questions on this proposal.

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