Lake County commissioners answer questions concerning jail levy
News from Lake County Commissioners
LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Commissioners have conducted the final Town Hall public meeting to present information related to the Criminal Justice Facilities and Operation Levy request that will be decided by voters in late January.
The 20-year levy, if approved, would increase taxes on a $200,000 home by $100 a year. The dollars the levy would generate will be used to double the number of beds in the Lake County jail, increasing the jail capacity to 100 beds, and to construct an additional district courtroom and provide office space for court staff.
Several questions concerning the levy request came up repeatedly in the question and answer session of the town halls and the commissioners would like to address those questions and try to provide some clarification.
1. Who will get to vote in the election? All active and inactive electors who reside in Lake County are entitled to vote. Ballots will be automatically mailed to active status electors only. Voters on the inactive list may reactivate by phone, mail or in-person if your information has not changed. Beginning Dec. 31 if an individual wishes to register to vote or change their voter information, they must appear in-person at the Lake County Election Office due to late registration. To verify your voter status, you may go to https://app.mt.gov/voterinfo/ or contact the Election Office at 406-883-7268.
2. The levy request is to give the commissioners the ability to collect up to $2.5 million yearly for 20 years, so isn’t the request for $50 million? If the maximum amount of $2.5 million is collected then the total would amount to $50 million. If the $2.5 million is not needed, the commissioners will not levy that amount.
3. If the plan is to have 100 beds available in the jail, is that enough for future needs? The commissioners want to build something that the county can afford. Predicting what the jail population will be in 20 years is dependent on a multitude of factors and in the opinion of the commissioners would be a guess.
4. Is the county going to ask the tribes to help fund the detention center construction? The county has not formally approached CSKT and requested funding assistance. It is not probable that the tribes would commit money for construction costs, but the commissioners believe that there could be financial cooperation between the two governments to help fund mental health and treatment programs if the new facility is built.
5. Can the money collected by the levies be diverted to other uses by the commissioners? No, the levy dollars will be deposited in funds designated for construction of the detention center and courtrooms, and the additional costs that the county will incur with more inmates.
6. Does the county have a building site selected? The commissioners have considered many options as sites for a detention center. There are currently two sites under consideration for construction. One is an addition on the west side of the Lake County Courthouse and the other is a half lot the county owns southwest of the court house across the street from the Polson VFW Hall.
7. Will additional mental health and addiction services be provided if a new facility is built? The commissioners are committed to pursuing these needed services for our inmates currently and in the future. Finding sources of funding for these services is difficult as most grants that could be used for programs are quite competitive. We will dedicate space for providing additional services if the levy request is successful.
All residents are urged to participate in the election and additional questions can be directed to the commissioners by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.