New tax to fix jail?

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Wednesday the Oklahoma County Commissioners voted 2-1 to approve a contract with a Georgia company to design and develop plans for a new Oklahoma County Jail and juvenile detention center.

While two of the commissioners, Ray Vaughn and Willa Johnson, say it is necessary for a new jail to be built, a third, Brian Maughan, says we should be able to save tax payer money.

Vaughn says, “Although it looks good from the outside, on the inside we’ve had collapsed sewer lines, we’ve had flooding.”

From day one, it seems, there have been problems at the jail.

In fact, in 2008 the Department of Justice went in and pointed out 60 deficiencies.

While the county has taken care of 56 of those problems, Vaughn says the remaining four are major infrastructure issues that would cost millions to fix.

Not fixing them could mean the federal government would step in and take over control of the jail.

Vaughn says, “We don’t think we need that. We feel we can do it much cheaper than the federal government can.”

Fixing the old jail would cost around $300 million.

Building a new one is estimated to cost between $300 million and $400 million.

Commissioner Brian Maughan voted against hiring a firm to develop plans to move forward with designing a new facility.

Maughan says, “I think we have made dramatic improvements. I just don’t know that a new jail is necessary at this time. I really don’t think that it is. “

He believes the improvements that have been made will satisfy the Department of Justice.

Maughan says, “I think they’ve been excited about the proactive approach we have taken.”

It’s an issue that ultimately may come down to a vote of the residents of Oklahoma County.

Vaughn says a citizens committee is actually the one who recommended approving a new sales tax and building a new jail.

He says a sales tax is the best way to pay for this because it would not only be paid for by Oklahoma County voters, but by anyone who shops or spends money in the county.

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