Their jail is too crowded and their juvenile justice center is inadequate. So officials in Tulsa County want voters to support a plan to use sales tax revenue to upgrade the facilities. Sound familiar?
There has been talk in Oklahoma County of addressing jail and juvenile justice center concerns. But the price tag — in excess of $250 million for two new buildings — is problematic. Disagreements have developed over whether a new jail is needed or deficiencies in the current building can be addressed in other ways.
Tulsa officials are more united. Commissioners, judges, the district attorney, the sheriff and others spoke at a news conference last week in support of using a 0.067 percent sales tax to add four pods to the jail and to construct a new juvenile justice center. This would cost nearly $55 million, with about $2 million in annual operating expenses. Several town hall meetings are on the books to explain the plan and get public feedback. The hope is that a vote can be held April 1.
No vote is imminent in Oklahoma County. At one time, a spring 2013 vote was considered on a half-cent sales tax to pay for a new jail. But that got scuttled after a survey reflected tepid support from potential voters. Now the hope is the U.S. Justice Department won't follow through on its threat to take over the jail. The county has addressed all but a handful of jail fixes mandated by the feds in a highly critical report in 2008. The others can be addressed only through renovations or by building a new jail.