‘Look this is just a management thing, not a money thing’ – 2 years later, Oklahoma County commissioner asks constituents for opinion on spending millions on new county jail

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma County District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey is passing out surveys to his constituents, asking if they would support using the county’s roughly $150 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding on building a new county jail.

“Look, this is just a management thing, not a money thing,”Calvey told KFOR back in March 2019.

That is the reason why Calvey wanted a jail trust to take over operations of the Oklahoma County Detention Center from the sheriff’s office.

He pushed for it. He got it, and he continued to tell News 4 that the issues with the jail were never a “money problem.”

Now, two years later, Calvey is hand-delivering a survey to some of his constituents. It reads in part: “Oklahoma County is receiving over $150 million in federal funds. It seems to me that we should build a new jail with our federal funds, but I’d like YOUR input.”

The survey continues: “Should we use these federal funds to build that new jail, or instead use those funds on various grants and social programs, and instead raise taxes to build a new jail, as some have suggested?”

“I am certainly open to using some of our ARP money to build a new jail,” District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert told KFOR on Thursday.

ARP stands for the American Rescue Plan. It’s a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill that President Biden signed in March.

“I think everyone is in agreement that we need a new jail as quickly as possible. I think Commissioner Calvey’s survey might be jumping the gun a little bit, because we don’t even know if using the money in that way is legal,” Blumert said.

District 3 commissioner Brian Maughan told News 4 he agrees, as the county is still waiting on guidelines from the Treasury Department and a legal opinion from the District Attorneys Office about how the funds can be spent.

“I’m hopeful that we’re able to use it under the infrastructure portion of it for helping us get somewhere on a jail solution, whether that be a annex or satellite facility, or top to bottom brand new jail,” Maughan said.

Commissioner Calvey did not respond to our multiple requests for an interview or a comment about it on Thursday.

Since the jail trust took over operations of the jail last July, the Oklahoma State Department of Health discovered several “repeat deficiencies,” according to one of their recent report. Those include medical and mental health screenings not being performed, inmates not being fed three times a day and a bed bug “infestation.”

Ultimately, the jail lost its certification to house juveniles a few weeks ago.

“The commissioners in the 80s and 90s really rushed the process of building the jail and they did not do their due diligence, and we now are dealing with it 30-35 years later, and we do not want that to happen again,” Blumert said.

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