At the Oct. 9 Board of County Commissioner’s committee meeting, Sheriff Bob Johnson stood before the board with the message the jail is past capacity.
“We have inmates sleeping on the floor on air mattresses,” Johnson told commissioners. “Every corner is taken.”
In a presentation to the board, Johnson said he had already directed his deputies to only make arrests for felony charges and issue notices to appear on misdemeanor crimes to help with the overcrowding. Currently anyone sentenced to under a year of time must stay at the county facility. Those sentenced to more than a year of time serve it at the department of corrections facility. Johnson says he has also met with judges to encourage them to give more Release on Recognizance bonds as well to reduce the number of intakes. But they still must arrest people who violate their probation.
In the end, the commissioners instructed staff to begin looking at the costs involved in building on to the jail or seeking other solutions that could be brought before the board.
However, in a surprise addition to the agenda for the Oct. 12 meeting, Commissioner Parker and Johnson presented another alternative to the board – a new half-cent sales tax.
“The concept is to have a half-cent justice system sales tax,” Parker said in his presentation. “It would be a special election just like the school board did. The cost of that was only $144,000 but it would allow us immediate construction on the jail.” And the tax could be used for other projects down the line he added.
Johnson told the board, “The people would get to decide where their money goes. And as a homeowner, I would want this because it won’t come from ad valorem taxes. I think the voters of Santa Rosa County would go for this.”
For more on this story, read the Oct. 19 issue of Navarre Press. You can subscribe online at www.navarrepress.com/subscribe for as little as $38 per year.