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Brule County South Dakota

Letter from taxpayers:

LETTER FROM ALVIN REUER
04-25-04
Brule County Commissioners 
Brule County Courthouse
Chamberlain, SD 57325
  1. Commissioners ask yourself if the present jail is operating in the black or red?
  2. If its operating in the black, why wasn't some of this money set aside for maintenance purposes?
  3. If the county has to go to the taxpayers for funding and operating cost of the jail, its not a very profitable business.
  4. Regardless of what you charge per day the class of people that end up there, don't have anything to start with.
  5. The taxpayer can't afford anymore taxes, especially the way the economy and dry conditions are.
  6. Why do these other counties take their prisioners somewhere else? Because its cheaper!
  7. There is also insurance that has to be considered.
  8. I can't understand why there is so much consideration for the criminal in our system today. You never hear anything about the well-being of the innocent people. The jails don't have to be like a Holiday-Inn. If they weren't they might not be in there!
  9. What is such a terrible thing to be without a jail when all it does si bring some more problems. I feel that if you can do all this without going to the taxpayer then have at it! But if you have to go to the taxpayer, I am a hundred percent againist it!
  10. I think for the present time we ought to fix up what we got.
  11. I feel that we should take care of our business in our county and let the other counties take care of theirs.

 Sincerely,

Alvin Reuer
33994 Reuer Rd.
Chamberlain, SD 57325

RESPONSE FROM COMMISSIONERS

BRULE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
Brule County Courthouse
300 South Courtland Ste. 103
Chamberlain, South Dakota 57325-1599
Phone/Fax 605-234-4430

 

June 3, 2004

 

Alvin Reuer
33994 Reuer Road
Chamberlain, SD 57325

Re: Brule County Jail

Dear Alvin:

Thank you for your letter on the jail issue. It helps us when a member of the public takes the time to give us their opinion.

You asked first if the jail operates at a profit. The answer is no. The budget for the jail is over $200,000. About half of this money comes from Brule County taxpayers and the other half comes from taxpayers in other counties, because we have room for prisoners from other counties and they pay us to house their prisoners.

State statutes require a county to either have a jail or to pay the entire cost of housing its prisoner elsewhere. The cost elsewhere must include all expenses of keeping and maintaining the prisoner in the jail "including the cost of building depreciation, administration and a reasonable charge for obsolescence of the facility and all other tangible and intangible costs."

When other counties send their prisoners to Brule County we are required by law to charge the other county enough so that it doesnt cost the taxpayers of Brule County anything to house these prisoners. As indicated these charges total over $100,000 per year.

As you point out, for some counties it is cheaper to take their prisoners somewhere else. If Buffalo County has one prisoner every six months they cant afford a jail. If Minnehaha County has twenty-five prisoners a day they cant afford not to have a jail.

Brule County is somewhere between these extremes. We paid a jail expert to try to determine whether or not it was cheaper for Brule County to keep the jail or send prisoners to other counties. The experts conclusion was that it was, is, and in the future will be, cheaper to operate the jail here. A copy of this report is in the Brule County Auditors office.

No one can predict the future, but to repeat, the experts conclusion was that in the long run, it will cost the taxpayer less to have the jail here than it will to transport and house prisoners elsewhere.

You have indicated that for the present we should fix the jail we have. What we have is a building that may need a new roof, has serious electrical and plumbing issues, does not provide a legal exercise area, is not handicap accessible, does not meet inmate space requirements and does not meet fire safety standards. To fix these problems we must spend from $800,000 to $1,000,000 and cut the jail capacity about in half. If the capacity is cut, Brule County taxes must increase about $100,000 per year for the foreseeable future to cover the revenue lost because we wont have room for as many prisoners from other counties.

If we build a proposed addition to the jail we can eliminate all of the above problems and almost double the number of inmates we can house. The addition will cost the taxpayers about $200,000 per year for twenty years but has the potential to pay for itself.

We apologize for the length of this letter but this is not a black or white issue. Asking taxpayers for more money is never easy, especially when the proposed use of the money is for something like a jail.

Again, thank you for your input. Hopefully your questions have been addressed and while we may not all agree on a solution, we think we do agree that something needs to be done.

 

Very truly yours,

Brule County Board of Commissioners

LETTER FROM ALVIN REUER

06-04-04

This is another letter about the jail issue. I received your letter of June 3, 2004.
After reading your letter I have received information that Winner voted to build a new jail. Lower Brule is also going to build a new jail so I strongly believe under these circumstances, that to expand or build a new jail for Brule Co. would not be a possible situation. Some of the prisoners that are coming to Chamberlain will be going elsewhere. If the present jail is operating in the red
now, building a new jail is not going to help that situation, it is only going to make a bigger debt. I also feel that some of these experts wouldn't have a job if they didn't make things sound or look good. If the roof needs repairing I guess we will have to repair it like a lot of other people do-fix it. Why do we have to increase the taxes by a $100,000.00 a year if the jail capacity is cut. Instead of taking other prisoners in. Maybe we should just take care of our own prisoners. It still would be cheaper than spending two or three million dollars. Some of these other counties will be taking their prisoners elsewhere. Considering all these things that will have to be done for the jail to make it feasible they don't all have to be done right away. Take the most importantones, take care of them one at a time. It doesn't have to be done all at once. As far as I am concerned, fix up what you have but before you do anything on this issue it should be put to a vote of the taxpayers of the county.

Sincerely,

Alvin Reuer
33994  Reuer Rd
Chamberlain, SD 57325-6312

RESPONSE FROM COMMISSIONERS

 

 

June 10, 2004

Alvin Reuer
33994 Reuer Road
Chamberlain, SD 57325

Re: Brule County Jail

Dear Alvin:

Again, we thank you for your input.

You are correct that Winner will be building a new jail and that Lower Brule may well build a jail. The expert we hired considered the effects of these developments as well as the construction of a new jail in Pierre/Ft. Pierre. It is his opinion that even with this new construction it is cheaper for Brule County to operate a jail than to transport prisoners and that Brule County can lower the cost of operating the jail by providing prisoner housing for other counties.

You ask why taxes have to increase by $100,000 a year if the jail capacity is decreased. In very round numbers, the current jail budget is $200,000. About $100,000 comes from Brule County taxpayers and $100,000 comes from taxpayers in other counties. If we dont house prisoners from other counties, there cant be a question in anyones mind that they wont pay us $100,000, as they have been. Unfortunately our costs dont go down as the number of inmates decreases. We will need to replace the $100,000 and unless there is an option we arent seeing, the only way to do it is to increase taxes.

That certain loss of revenue is what makes this decision so difficult. In the long run is it better that:

  1. We spend almost $1,000,000 plus interest to fix what we have, but which reduces our capacity so that we lose $100,000 in annual outside income; or

  2. That we spend $2,500,000 plus interest, hopefully keep the $100,000 coming in annually and have the potential of providing enough additional revenue so that the cost to Brule County taxpayers is less than $2,500,000, and perhaps even less than the first alternative?

Sometime in the next ten to twenty years we will be able to look back at the decision we are making now and will see either that it was the dumbest move possible, or that we made the right decision and the taxpayers are in better shape than if we had gone the other way.

Until that time hopefully the vast majority of the taxpayers of Brule County will appreciate that no matter what option we favor we are all trying to reach the best result for Brule County.

Very truly yours,

Brule County Board of Commissioners

 

 

 

 

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