County Commission passes resolution to close jail

By Elise Brochu, UD Staff Writer
Posted 5/1/24

LINN — At their meeting April 23, commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to close the Osage County Detention Center by the end of the year, unless Sheriff Mike Bonham can prove to the …

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County Commission passes resolution to close jail


LINN — At their meeting April 23, commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to close the Osage County Detention Center by the end of the year, unless Sheriff Mike Bonham can prove to the commission that it is sustainable.

Both Bonham and Presiding Commissioner Darryl Griffin have expressed frustration with maintenance issues related to the 2007-08 renovation of the detention center.

“This isn’t the commission’s fault, either,” Bonham said. “They inherited these problems just like I did.”

The cell walls were constructed using drywall over wood framing, and that drywall is often damaged by inmates. The county pays for the materials to repair the damage, however the inmates patch the drywall and paint, with training and supervision from jail staff.

“It was all done wrong,” Griffin said, citing the cell walls and also the lack of shut-off valves necessary to locate a recent water leak under the jail’s concrete floor.

“(The plumber) had to cut holes in some of the walls to get to the pipes to put shut-offs, because we couldn’t isolate the different cells,” Griffith said.

Several walls have been upgraded by an outside contractor, using a 5/8” coat of concrete reinforced with chicken wire over the 5/8” drywall and studs, and a contractor was scheduled to walk the jail last week to provide a quote to upgrade all cell walls.

The original renovation plan included a location for a water softener, but that water softener was apparently value engineered out of the project to save money. The closet meant to house the water softener contains the mop sink and is currently being used for storage of cleaning materials.

Jail staff noticed they couldn’t maintain consistent temperature control within the detention center and called Rehagen Heating and Cooling, Inc., Westphalia, who determined that automatic vents, meant to control air flow between areas of the jail to regulate temperature, were never hooked up.

“They do a good job with what they have,” said Griffin. “But it seems like we’re fixing a lot of things all the time. If they’d have (done) it right the first time, then we wouldn’t have any problems. We all want to make sure that we’re getting the best deal for our dollars.”

“We (have) to be good stewards of the county taxpayer’s money.” Griffin continued. “That’s why they voted us in — to do that, and keep their county safe, too. And our sheriff does a great job, but you can only do so much. I’m not asking for more money, but (we) have to live within (our) means.”

As of Dec. 31, 2023, the county had $1,536,323.14 in the Jail Renovation fund, with anticipated revenue of $800,000 over the course of the year. That fund is accrued from the 20 year tax increase approved by voters on Aug. 7, 2007, which remains in effect through 2027. The original ballot language read: “…for the benefit of the county, including but not limited to providing funds for general operating purposes and for renovating, improving, and maintaining the Osage County Courthouse.”

From that fund, commissioners have budgeted in 2024 to spend $292,500 including $150,000 for the lease on the annex building, $125,000 to offset costs in other areas, $10,000 for repair and maintenance, and $7,500 for County Operations.

“I wish they would have called me before they made the decision about this,” said Bonham, who was blindsided by their call. “I wish I’d been consulted more than (them) just saying ‘We’re closing your jail.’”

According to figures on the county’s website, the full 2024 budget for the detention center is $392,600.

The county has budgeted $80,000 in anticipated revenue for board of prisoners from other areas (primarily Gasconade County) and $30,000 in reimbursements from the state for time served.

The detention center houses an average of 10 Osage County prisoners per day for 365 days. The estimated cost of housing an Osage County prisoner is $63.73 per day.

According to Bonham, who is still collecting information, Cole and Moniteau County jails are at capacity and Maries County can’t take these prisoners, therefore the closest jails which could house Osage County prisoners are Phelps and Miller Counties, both an hour away. Both counties charge $85/day to house prisoners, which Bonham estimates will cost the county approximately $310,250 per year, however that could change at any time and Osage County would be required to pay whatever rates were set by state statute (RSMo. 57.200).

In addition, Osage County will have to provide transportation to and from the facility housing the prisoners, approximately three hours round trip for a deputy — when the drive, paperwork, and other considerations are factored in. This means that the county may need to hire additional deputies or staff (with salaries, benefits, vehicles, and equipment) to transport prisoners without affecting public safety.

Osage County would be responsible for transporting all prisoners arrested in Osage County (RSMo. 221.040), including those by the Missouri Highway Patrol and by the police departments in Linn, Belle, and now Chamois — not just prisoners arrested by the sheriff’s department.

“If we arrest a citizen for driving under the influence and they blow over the limit, we’re going to hold them for 12 hours” Bonham said. “That means a deputy will have to drive them all the way down to Phelps County (for example), which will hold them for 11 hours before releasing them, and (that person) will be on their own to find a way home.”

Osage County will still be responsible for the cost of any prisoner medical care which could not be provided at the contracted jail.

Osage County would also have to retain 24-hour jail staff for booking and processing, as well as for court duties. The county’s 2024 budget for jail staff salaries is $265,700.

Linn Police Chief Sam Ford expressed concern about what closing the jail might mean for county residents.

“I have great concern over the commission’s recent decision to close the Osage County jail,” Ford said. “This concern goes far past inconvenience or cost; it’s about public safety. I fear how it will affect surrounding communities who depend solely on the sheriff’s office for services pertaining to public safety. I am afraid using deputies to transport arrested to facilities over an hour away will only reduce the amount of deputies protecting our citizens and neighboring communities.”

“We’ll do whatever we need to do,” Bonham said. “From a personal point of view, it would be easier for me, because all I’d need to worry about is logistics, but I don’t think it would be good for the county.”

“I pray that the commission will reevaluate this decision and will look at this from all views, as it will affect more than just one department or community,” said Ford.

More detailed information will be available as sheriff’s department staff finish collecting it and start compiling a report. Bonham’s report to the commission is due Sept. 30.