Lincoln County voters deciding on whether to approve jail

Local News

TEA, SD (KELO) — Voters in Lincoln County are deciding the future of a proposed jail that would house nearly 200 inmates. They’re voting on whether or not to issue up to $50-million in bonds to pay for a public safety building, that would include not only the jail but also a courtroom, office space for law enforcement and a treasurer’s satellite office. Lincoln County says they need the jail because it’s too expensive to house inmates in other counties. But the project is getting pushback from people who live near the proposed site.

Betty Otten and her husband, State Senator Ernie Otten, live about one mile from the planned location in southeast Tea for the proposed Lincoln County Public Safety Building. They say a jail is not a good fit for their neighborhood.

“What are we going to do with 154 acres of wetlands? Next to a school, next to a campground, so that’s why we’re opposed to it,” Betty Otten said.

The Ottens say if a jail were to be built, it should be in Canton, where the sheriff’s office and the county courthouse are located. But supporters say the jail needs to be in the northern part of the county, because that’s where the people are.

“One of the first things we talked about when we were looking for a site was to get the police officers back to their beats and the highest concentration of people are Tea, Harrisburg and Sioux Falls,” Lincoln County Commission Chairman Mike Poppens said

Lincoln County Commission Chairman Mike Poppens says the county is on pace to spend more than $2-million a year in housing inmates at the Minnehaha County Jail. He says that cost would be greatly reduced with a new jail.

“It will lower costs for our prisoners from the $97 a day that we currently pay to theoretical to $14 a day,” Poppens said.

But the Ottens say in this time of pandemic, homeowners can’t afford higher property taxes to pay for the jail.

“Everybody’s suffering and then to raise taxes, I think it hurts everybody,” Otten said.

The Ottens say a nearly 200 bed jail is much too large for the county. But Poppens says the $32-$34-million price tag is an investment in the county’s future that will save money in the long run.

According to the Lincoln County auditor, a $250,000 home would see its property tax rise $65.50 in the first year, if the bond is approved.

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