By Kevin Wilson
CNJ STAFF WRITER
Contingent on voters approving a $9.88 million bond to build a new county jail, the Clovis City Commission approved entering into negotiations with Curry County for a 15-acre land donation east of the city landfill along Brady Avenue.
The tract of land is currently outside of city limits, but Mayor David Lansford noted before the 8-0 vote that the city would need to annex the land later in the process in order to avoid jurisdictional issues when city police officers needed to book prisoners.
The deal, as presented by Lansford, would be handled as a government-to-government transfer with no money changing hands.
The county is holding an Aug. 6 election, asking citizens to renew bonds set to expire, providing the $9.88 million while preserving current property tax rates. County Manager Lance Pyle has noted total costs will run in excess of $13 million, and the county needs to either take out a loan or pull from the general fund to pay costs not covered by the bond.
The meeting had two Curry County commissioners in attendance — Ben McDaniel in the audience, and Bobby Sandoval on the dais serving in his role as city commissioner. Sandoval disclosed the potential conflict of interest, but the city commission declined to nullify his vote.
Commissioners asked McDaniel about the decision making process on a potential new jail. McDaniel said a design had been selected, and he felt very comfortable about the security aspects of the potential design.
The new jail, McDaniel said, would help the county save on its annual costs of sending inmates to other facilities, which ranges between $600,000 and $1.6 million annually.
McDaniel did note the county was looking at other tracts of land as well, and had not made any final decision.
City Commissioner Dan Stoddard, a former county commissioner defeated in election last year by McDaniel, had concerns on overall jail costs. Stoddard noted the county would at least for a while run both the current facility in downtown Clovis and the new facility, and he had doubts the county would be able to incur such expenses even after the savings were entered into the equation.
The current jail has been the site of numerous escapes over the last few years, including an escape of eight inmates in 2008 that put Clovis in the national media spotlight.
Lansford said prior to the vote that citizens had spoken twice on previous bond issues to expand the current jail, and both of them were defeated by voters. He said whether it be government or business, you have to either upgrade or leave facilities that don’t work.
“If your facility is inadequate,” Lansford said, “it breeds error and problems.”