New county jail discussion moves ahead

By Jeff Fox

Jackson County is a step closer to a new jail, but officials still have major decisions to make, including the facility’s size and location.

At the moment, plans call for a 1,188-bed facility at a cost of up to $260 million. That would replace the 840-bed Detention Center in downtown Kansas City. Officials are looking for a 50-acre site, allowing room for expansion to as many as 1,500 beds over 50 years.

Last week county legislators passed a resolution declaring their intent to move ahead. It’s a technical step, meaning the county can recoup current planning costs out of bonds expected to be issued at some point to pay for the new jail.

“This does not bind the county to anything,” said Legislature Chair Dan Tarwater, D-Kansas City.

County Executive Frank White Jr. urged legislators to hold public hearings on the jail’s size and location.

“That's a big issue in the community,” he said.

Tarwater said he agreed and suggested hearings could be held in places around the community.

Legislator Crystal Williams, D-Kansas City, also stressed that the jail’s size needs a full and public discussion.

County Administrator Troy Schulte said the $260 million figure is at the high end and he hopes that price could come down.

“We won't have solid numbers, obviously, until we go to market and see what the construction community says,” Schulte said.