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Commissioners discuss jail expansion levy

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RONAN — The jail expansion levy was discussed during a community outreach meeting Oct. 6 at the Ronan Community Center, which was attended by all three Lake County commissioners, representatives from the Lake County Attorney’s Office and Lake County Sheriff’s Office. 

The county lockup was originally constructed to house 42 individuals; however, the average daily population typically hovers around 60 inmates. On Sunday morning, the county was holding 54 inmates and paying other counties to house an additional 11. 

Due to perpetual overcrowding at the jail, law enforcement officers have been ticketing people for certain misdemeanors, with the exceptions of driving under the influence and domestic assault, instead of booking them into jail. For the most part, the jail is reserved for felony offenses.

The proposed levy will raise $2.5 million annually over the next 20 years and would annually increase the property taxes on a home valued at $100,000 by approximately $1,008.

The majority of the funding, $1.5 million annually, will cover the cost of building a 100-plus-bed facility, which would include increased courtroom and offices. Additional rooms for alternative sentencing, mental health and other programs aimed at lowering recidivism are included in the plan. The remainder of the $1 million will provide for additional staff, fund operations, maintenance and improvements to inmate mental healthcare.

Commissioners will host two more public hearings before the Jan. 28 mail-in vote. The next meeting is on Oct. 22 at the Arlee School Library, and the second meeting is on Oct. 29 in the large conference room at the Lake County Court House in Polson. Meeting times are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. 

For further information contact the commissioners’ office at 406-883-7204 or at lakecommissioners@lakemt.gov.

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