- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - The Ward County sheriff says he needs more space to lock up a growing number of inmates, as current plans for a new jail only give him about half as many cells as he needs.

County voters approved a half-cent sales tax two years ago to build a jail with 50 cells that can hold 90 inmates, but Sheriff Steve Kukowski said this week that he often has more than 140 inmates at one time.

In January, voters will decide whether to extend the half-cent sales tax. If approved, the bond measure would bring the county about $37.5 million more.

“I would hate to build a facility and have it full the day that we open it,” the sheriff told KXMC-TV in Minot (http://bit.ly/1EIslPP ).

The existing Ward County Jail was designed to hold 56 inmates, but they double bunk to allow for 104 beds.

Because of space demands, Ward County follows a program where Class B misdemeanor offenders who sign a promise to appear are released. Kukowski said this creates problems for the county, which has to issue warrants when they don’t show up for court.

“One year ago we had 1,700 warrants. As of this week, we have 3,200 outstanding warrants,” he told the news station.

The current bond will collect a half-cent sales tax until the fund reaches $39.5 million or for 10 years - whichever comes first.

The new bond would not raise the tax, but would keep it in place until it nets approximately $77 million.

Kukowski said he’s “confident that we can get it through.”

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Information from: KXMC-TV, http://www.kxnet.com

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