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News

Jail referendum back on ballot in November

SYCAMORE - The DeKalb County Board again will ask voters for permission to increase the sales tax 0.5 percent to help expand the crowded jail. Voters said &#8220No” to the same amount two years ago. &#8220In case you haven't heard,” said board member Sue Leifheit at Wednesday's county board meeting, &#8220the jail is full.” DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said that, on average, the jail housed 88 inmates a day last year. This year, the daily average is 95, with June's average being 102 prisoners. &#8220The problem is not going away,” he said after the meeting. &#8220We have 100 prisoners a day in a building built in 1980 for 89 people. We need to deal with it now.” He said that as the county's population grows, so does the jail's. Scott said voters need to know that the money is needed. The referendum on the March 2004 ballot failed, with 53 percent of voters turning it down. He said neighbors are not happy with the idea of expanding the existing jail on State Street, but he said it is important to keep the jail close to the courthouse and the sheriff's office. Building a new jail out of the downtown area would cost a lot more and there would be additional transportation costs, Scott said. &#8220We try to be good neighbors,” Scott said. &#8220It's a safe neighborhood - with us and Sycamore (police) here.” Board member Michael Haines, D-Kingston, voted to approve the resolution, but wanted to make sure voters know the money would be used not only to expand the jail but also for programs designed to lower the jail population over the long run, such as by instituting a drug court. County board member Steve Slack, D-Sycamore, was the only member to vote against putting the referendum on the ballot. Member Dennis Sands, R-Shabbona, was absent. &#8220Four years ago I pledged to (Sycamore) 2nd Ward residents not to vote (on the referendum) unless we explored every option,” Slack said. He said that in the future DeKalb County could continue to house prisoners in nearby jails that already are expanding. &#8220We don't know how many beds are available,” he said. The referendum will be on the Nov. 7 ballot. Aracely Hernandez can be reached at ahernandez@daily-chronicle.com.

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