- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

JENNINGS, La. (AP) - Jefferson Davis Parish voters will vote on a proposed sales tax increase to fund the maintenance and operation of a new parish jail.

The American Press reports (http://bit.ly/1eOXZNb ) the police jury voted Wednesday to put the 10-year, half-cent sales tax on the May 3 ballot. If approved, it would raise about $2.1 million to be used to run the jail, including costs to feed inmates and provide medical care.

The sales tax increase would take effect July 1, according to Police Jury President Donald Woods. Passage of the tax is vital to the future of the parish jail, he said.

“If it doesn’t pass, there will be more criminals walking around like they are now,” Woods said. “We really need it because of the lack of space. We can’t arrest anybody and put them in jail.”

The new jail would also save the parish money on upkeep of an outdated facility that is in need of major repairs, he said.

The current jail, built in 1964, can house only 62 inmates and has major issues with an outdated sewer system, inadequate lighting and a lack of proper security measures.

Plans for the new jail call for a facility that will incorporate the parish jail and the municipal jails in Jennings, Welsh and Lake Arthur. Most of the sheriff’s administration offices, including the 911 Center, would also be relocated to the new jail.

A 2012 study by McNeese State University economics professor Michael M. Kurth and accounting professor Daryl V. Burkel recommended the parish build an $8 million, 180- to 200-inmate jail with annual operating costs of $2.35 million.

Based on the report, the cost to operate the new facility would be $32.15 per inmate per day - $12.21 less than the $44.36 cost to run all four facilities independently.

The State Bond Commission approved $10 million in funding for the new jail in October.

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Information from: American Press, http://www.americanpress.com

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