This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – While the Board of Oklahoma County Commissioners is still ironing out the details of how to fund a new county jail, the county’s treasurer is weighing in on potential plans for using millions in COVID relief dollars for the project.

“I know that the final rule on ARPA money came out and sort of forced us to re-look at ways this money can legally be spent,” Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert, District 1, said on Tuesday.

Those new guidelines from the U.S. Department of the Treasury were released last week. They detail how American Rescue Plan Act funds, COVID-relief dollars, can be spent.

“Very recent guidance has indicated pretty strongly that you cannot use them for construction of a new jail,” Butch Freeman, Oklahoma County Treasurer, said.

Freeman said Oklahoma County is considering using their remaining $77 million in ARPA funds on a brand new, $300 million jail.

They’re also asking the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding at the State Capitol for another $110 million in ARPA funds as well, following a unanimous vote by the commissioners on Tuesday.

Oklahoma County Detention Center exterior
Oklahoma County Detention Center

According to the guidelines from the Treasury Department, while the money can’t be used to construct a new correctional facility, it can be used on public health, and that includes medical expenses and behavioral healthcare.

“You certainly can argue that you can use them for like medical and mental health facilities,” Freeman said.

That’s the county’s tentative plan. If they get that $110 million from the state, they hope to use those dollars and the $77 million of the county’s ARPA funds for the jail’s medical and mental healthcare wing and services.

“Then whatever would be remaining, they would be looking to a bond issue,” Freeman said.

That would be expiring bond money, so there would be no raise in taxes, and voters would have to approve it during a special election in the spring.

“This is still so preliminary, but yet it’s a fast moving train,” Freeman said.

Freeman said it’s been an ongoing conversation at the county offices, with guidelines that are a bit vague.

“Board of County Commissioners have got a contract with a firm right now that’s helping them and helping us, helping the board of county commissioners to go through those guidelines and rules to help us better define what we can and cannot do with that money,” Freeman said.

At this point, none of these funding plans have been finalized.