I've discovered a sure-fire way to grab attention. All you have to do is mention spending $5 million of taxpayer dollars. That pretty well does the trick.
The city of McMinnville is floating around ideas about ways to renovate our Civic Center. Among all the plans and best intentions, it was estimated this grand remodeling effort would cost over $5 million. That seems just a tad more than I'm willing to spend.
If there's one redeeming quality to Civic Center upgrades, it's that the project will benefit the community. It will give residents a nicer place to shoot basketball, to play racquetball, to take fitness classes. It would add new shine to an old shoe.
But imagine proposing a $5 million spending project using taxpayer dollars for a facility that doesn't provide an ounce of enjoyment. That's the dollar figure being tossed around by county officials for expanding Warren County Jail.
For those not familiar with this story, our current jail has a capacity of 251 inmates. In recent months, the jail population has been around 100 inmates over capacity in the 350 range.
Faced with the problem of where to house all these law-breakers among us, the county began talks of jail expansion. When the $5 million pricetag began to circulate, the collective moan in the community got audibly louder.
In short, no one wants to pay taxes to keep people in jail. No one wants to pay taxes to feed them. No one wants to pay for extra jailers to watch them.
With this in mind, I've been hearing talk about letting more inmates out of jail early, or not sentencing them to jail time at all, for some minor offenses. This would not apply to violent offenders who need to be removed from society for safety reasons.
As I was flipping through old Southern Standard newspapers this week, I noticed our top story in the Oct. 27, 2013 edition was about ankle bracelets and the possibility of using these devices to lessen jail time. These ankle bracelets contain GPS devices to monitor the whereabouts of the offender.
Unfortunately, more than three years later, this program has yet to gain much steam. Warren County does use ankle bracelets occasionally but, best I can tell, they are assigned very sparingly.
I'd like to take this time to encourage a greater use of ankle bracelets as a way to monitor our criminals. Instead of locking folks away for unproductive days sleeping in a jail cell, I see ankle bracelets as a much better solution.
The theory is ankle bracelets will allow these offenders to hold a job, earn a paycheck, and support their families. At the very least, they are having to pay for their own meals.
Spending $5 million in county dollars to expand the jail is not my idea of a pleasant walk in the park. At least I might get that if the city were to spend $5 million on the Civic Center.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.