A plan to put a $350 million jail proposal before Oklahoma County voters this spring has been delayed.
County commissioners did not vote Wednesday on a ballot proposal as was previously suggested by the board's chairman, Ray Vaughn.
Vaughn said he agreed to put off the jail initiative for later this year because of municipal and school board elections already scheduled for March.
“I don't want to insinuate we want an election entirely to ourselves, necessarily, but the school board and city council elections being the same time frame, we would perhaps hurt their turnout or maybe they would hurt our turnout,” he said. “I don't think the issues would meld very well.”
Vaughn and the county's engineer, Stacey Trumbo, said in November that plans for a ballot proposal were in the works for a 10-year, half-cent sales tax that would support land acquisition and construction of a new jail and juvenile detention center.
A consulting company has been working since March to design the proposed jail, identify a location and to develop the financing package that will be presented to voters.
Talk of replacing the current downtown jail — opened in 1991 and the largest of its kind in the state — picked up steam in 2007, when the Justice Department outlined a series of management and operational deficiencies there.
All but a few of the deficiencies have been addressed, Vaughn said, and the remaining ones would require major structural changes. He said the county has until November to complete the list or to at least demonstrate the public's support for making those structural changes.
Vaughn said consultants have been asked to develop a one-story complex that would replace the existing 13-story tower downtown. The adult detention center would be built to hold 2,800 detainees.
Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, who manages the jail as part of his duties as sheriff, has not said whether he supports the construction of a new jail.
I don't want to insinuate we want an election entirely to ourselves, necessarily, but the school board and city council elections being the same time frame, we would perhaps hurt their turnout or maybe they would hurt our turnout.”
Oklahoma County commissioner