Friday, March 31, 2006

Court hears challenge to jail funding plan

Hailey resident says savings fund is illegal

Express Staff Writer

Attempts to fund a new Blaine County jail have landed the county commissioners in court.

On Tuesday, March 28, 5th District Administrative Judge Barry Wood heard arguments regarding the county commissioners' methods to fund a new jail.

In a 2004 advisory vote, the county proposed to pay for a new jail with a county savings program and by using available general revenues to repay borrowed construction funds. According to a press release dated September 2004, voters were told that constructing a new jail would cost about $8 million to $9.5 million, not including interest.

Voters passed the proposal.

But Hailey resident Kate Rosekrans believes the commissioners misled voters in the 2004 advisory vote and that the burden of paying for the new jail will fall on taxpayers. She also believes that the county is illegally storing funds.

Neither Rosekrans nor her attorney, Fritz Haemmerle, could be reached for comment.

Blaine County Commission Chairwoman Sarah Michael believes the issue is a giant misunderstanding.

"We feel the taxpayers are already burdened enough, and we want to borrow money so we don't have to raise taxes," Michael said. "Under Idaho code, we can't borrow money unless it's for an ordinary and necessary expense, and we have to have approval from the judge."

The county is being represented by Tammy A. Zokan, of the Boise law firm Moore Smith Buxton and Turcke. Zokan could not be reached for comment.

Michael said the current jail is "getting more and more dilapidated ... it's a scraper," and that a new facility is needed to accommodate population growth. Judge Wood gave no timeline for when he would render a decision.

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