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Delaware County jail proposal rejected by voters for fourth time

Delaware County residents for the fourth time in two years have rejected a sales tax increase to pay for additional beds for the overcrowded jail.
BY VALLERY BROWN Modified: August 26, 2010 at 6:17 am •  Published: August 26, 2010

— Delaware County officials say they are releasing prisoners early, lowering bail and doing everything they can to prevent fines for overcrowding after residents for the fourth time in two years rejected a sales tax increase to fund additional jail beds.

It's a cost that's eventually going to have to be paid, County Commissioner Kenneth Crowder said.

"The state is probably going to have to take action," said Crowder. "I don't know what the answer is and there are people walking the streets that shouldn't be because of it."

State jail inspectors in 2006 cited the then-5-year-old jail for being in violation of government jail standards, primarily overcrowding.

Delaware County Sheriff's Department Capt. Ron Teel said the jail on Wednesday was holding 66 prisoners.

Capacity is 62.

A proposition to fund an 8-year, half-cent sales tax to add 100 beds to the existing 62-bed jail failed 2,549 to 3,982 votes Tuesday.

In April, residents narrowly rejected a proposition for a half-cent sales tax to fund an $11.9 million jail. In January 2009 and in August 2008 voters said no to a one-10th penny sales tax proposal to keep about 20 Delaware County inmates in the Ottawa County jail.

"Crimes aren't decreasing," District Attorney Edward Wyant said. "If they feel it's enough jail, that's what we'll work with. We'll reduce bonds, and we'll release people we'd like to have incarcerated."

Crowder said one argument of the sales tax opponents was the laws need to be changed, fewer people jailed and more of an emphasis put on alternatives to incarceration.

He said Grove residents were also concerned about the rising sales-tax rate.

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