- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - Williams County commissioners and department heads have ironed out finances for a jail expansion and plan to break ground this spring, though at least one county leader is worried about the expense, given the current oil slowdown.

The expansion of the Williston jail and law enforcement center is part of a larger project that also includes courthouse renovations and an addition to the county administrative building, the Williston Herald reported (https://bit.ly/22CyHeA ).

The project is expected to cost about $49 million, with a few million dollars added as a contingency plan.

More than $38 million will come from reserves, permit fees and sales tax revenues, according to County Financial Officer Kristi Hanson. Another $15.5 million likely will be borrowed from the Bank of North Dakota. Commissioners had been bracing for the possibility of having to borrow up to $28 million.

“Costs started coming down significantly and the bids came in less,” Commission Chairman David Montgomery said.

The jail in the hub of the western North Dakota oil patch has been dealing with crowding issues as the population in the region has increased. The existing jail can hold 132 inmates, but prisoner counts have reached as high as 140, according to Sheriff’s Capt. Verlan Kvande. Williams County officials for months have been paying a corrections facility in Montana to house prisoners.

The expanded Williston jail will have room for 240 inmates.

Commissioner Martin Hanson said he worries about overspending with the oil economy in a slump.

“I’d really hate if we put up a building and pay all these millions of dollars and find out we’re not going to need it,” he said.

Sheriff Scott Busching acknowledged the uncertainty of a large investment but said something needs to be done.

“There’s some (criminals) that we’ve let go that need to be in jail,” he said. “This is about the safety of the inmates and safety of our staff, and the overcrowding that we have right now, it’s not good.”


Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com

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