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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

County to explore options to pay off Justice Center sooner

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

By Charlene Sims, Journal staff

With income from housing outside inmates and cutting costs by not needing to ship county inmates to other facilities, the Linn County Commission is considering refinancing to pay off the Justice Center bonds sooner. (Journal file photo)

MOUND CITY – Joey McLiney, Linn County’s bond consultant for the Linn County Justice Center, met with the Linn County Commissioners on Monday, June 5, to update them on the bonds for the jail.

McLiney started out by telling the commissioners that the outstanding bond amount as of this July 2, is nearly $16.4 million for the Justice Center. He pointed out that the current annual debt service is about $921,000 and 22% of the principal refinancing amount is about $3.6 million. He discussed with the commissioners if this was the amount they wanted to refinance.

McLiney took into account that the amount for four new Justice Center staff for a year would be $300,000. This is the amount of workers needed to fully staff the Justice Center so that it could take in more inmates.

He then presented them with four options for refinancing part of the debt in 27 years, 25 years, 20 years or 10 years. This part of the debt limits how many federal inmates can be housed without a penalty to the financing. If this debt amount were refinanced with a different kind of bond, the county would not be limited as to how many federal prisoners it could house.

McLiney told the commissioners that, because of their sales tax income, the county could easily afford any of the options. At 27 years the county’s increase of the current payment amount would be nearly $61,200; at 25 years the annual increase would be $69,600; at 20 years it would be $99,100: and at ten years $269,500.

The commissioners asked McLiney to bring back more information for them for 10- and 20-year bonds. They were interested in retiring the debt faster and learning how soon the county could prepay loan payments. McLiney will return next week with this information.

Sheriff Kevin Friend addressed the issue of being able to hire the four staff members. He said the best luck they have had hiring was when the county had a job fair, and he also believes that the Southeastern Technical Academy for Rural Students (STARS) program will be a boost to hiring new young employees who are interested in staying in the county.

Friend discussed the difference between the budget for the old jail and the new Justice Center. The old jail had a budget of $2.3 million while the new jail a has a budget of $3.4 million. He said his goal is that the Justice Center budget will be a wash with the inmate income paying the expenses.

With the new Justice Center, the sheriff’s budget does do away with the $300,000 previously spent on sending local inmates to other facilities, now only $50,000 is budgeted for sending inmates out. Increases in the sheriff’s budget are that it pays the utilities and supplies for the district court offices and the county attorney’s offices.

At present, the income from the inmates and other activities at the sheriff’s office is deposited directly in the county’s general fund account, where it can be used to pay any county expenses. Some of this fund was used to increase county employees’ salaried by $1 per hour earlier this year.

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