Absentee voting underway as Clay County considers new jail, courthouse

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Absentee voting has already started for a Clay County, City of Vermillion and Vermillion School District combined election coming up on June 8; you can view a sample ballot here. One of the issues is a new Clay County Jail and courthouse.

This week four of the five Clay County commissioners attached their names to a letter supporting the $41 million bond issue that would finance a new facility which would house a jail and the Clay County Courthouse. The aim is for Vermillion Police Department and Clay County Sheriff’s Office to also be at this new facility. Clay County Sheriff Andy Howe supports the bond issue and thus a new facility. The court house and jail right now occupy the same space.

“A lot of it has to do with space,” Howe said. “We are completely consuming this building, and in the public safety center as well as the courthouse, there’s just no more available space.”

He says the law enforcement center “hardly” allows the necessary work to get done. He also addresses the courthouse.

“In the courthouse they have a situation where the county commission had to move out of their room and move into another room in the basement so the treasurer could expand, and there’s just really no more room in that building to expand, and so space is an issue,” Howe said.

State legislator Arthur Rusch, a senator who represents Turner and Clay Counties, has a different take on the bond issue.

“I’m part of the group that’s, we want to preserve our historic courthouse, and we’re asking people to vote no,” Rusch said. “We’ve come up with an alternative plan, and once this bond issue gets defeated, we’d like to sit down with the proponents and come up with a alternative plan.”

The likely plan he says is to build a new jail but to preserve the courthouse. There is no planned spot for the new facility if it gets the green light from voters, and Rusch doesn’t like this.

“The failure to tell us even where it’s going to be is real problematic in my view,” Rusch said.

The bond issue on the ballot also includes “current courthouse stabilization and exterior preservation.”

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