Marion County has known the current jail was inadequate for at least eight years. In 2002, then-Sheriff Lee Becker sent three inmates to Rice County while looking for five more spaces because the jail was over capacity.
The county hired BG Consultants in March 2005 to conduct a feasibility study regarding a new jail large enough to accept out-of-county inmates. After the study, BG Consultants recommended a 48-bed jail with room to expand to 72 beds. The firm estimated such a facility would cost $8 to $10 million.
In January 2007, the estimated cost for a facility with a 72-bed jail, sheriff’s office, 911 dispatch, courtroom, court services, and county attorney’s office exceeded $14.7 million.
In November 2008, voters rejected by a 3-1 margin a 1 percent sales tax to pay for a 77-bed, $8.65 million jail and law enforcement center.
In March 2009, Marion County Commission appointed 15 volunteers to a committee to make recommendations to the commission about a new jail. The committee toured the current jail, interviewed architects, accepted public comments and questions, and conducted numerous meetings.
Before disbanding in August 2010, the committee recommended building a jail with about 32 beds designed by either HMN Architects Inc. or Treanor Architects P.A. The committee also recommended a flat tax to finance the facility, which was later declared illegal by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office.
Commissioners eventually selected Treanor Architects P.A., which presented a 36-bed design with an estimated cost of $3.5 million in February. Marion County is proposing a 0.5 percent sales tax to pay for the facility.
The commission has hosted public forums in Florence, Hillsboro, Marion, Goessel, and Lincolnville and plans to in Peabody and Tampa.