The chairman of an Oklahoma County committee tasked with planning a new detention center said a sales tax election will be scheduled as early as March.
Stacey Trumbo, the county engineer, said planning for the new adult-juvenile complex is nearing completion and that the county's legal team is now preparing a ballot.
County voters will be asked to support a 10-year, half-cent sales tax to support the estimated $350 million project, Trumbo said.
“I'm really of the opinion that maybe the committee's work is over and we need to just get on with ballot titles and go to a vote of the people, see what they have to say about it,” he said on Tuesday.
The county contracted with a Georgia consulting company in March to design the jail, identify a location and to develop a financing package to 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.
Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said the four remaining deficiencies at the jail cannot be resolved without a major remodel or new facility. Whetsel has not said whether he will endorse the construction of a new jail.
County Commissioner Ray Vaughn said the cost of a new adult detention center would be about the same as a remodel of the current facility — about $290 million. Remaining money would be spent constructing a new juvenile detention center and purchasing property.
“If we can get the bond issue authorized then we'll go out and look at sites, a 60- to 80-acre site — but we're not going to tie our hands with being on half of a city block like we are right now, where we can't expand,” Vaughn said.
According to the proposal, a one-story complex would replace the current 13-story tower downtown. The adult detention center would be built to hold 2,800 detainees.
Trumbo said the committee will likely produce a final design recommendation in December.