It’s been just six months since the new Antelope County Law Enforcement Center officially opened in Neligh and officials are already under fire on whether the 30-bed facility is being used appropriately.
County attorney Joe Abler said the new facility is currently housing more inmates than the previous jail could hold.
There’s a night-and-day difference between the two facilities. The old jail was a single-story home with jail cells in the basement. The 911 center was beside the visiting room where inmates and their families could easily hear details from emergency calls.
Steep stairs led to the basement cells where dispatchers, deputies and often times EMTs rushed to the aid of inmates, creating safety concerns for all involved.
Sheriff Bob Moore said safety and the 911 communication center were two of the biggest reasons behind building the new jail, besides the fact that the old jail hadn’t met jail standards for years.
Concerns were raised publicly on the Antelope County Jail at last week’s supervisor meeting while reviewing budget requests. The sheriff requested an additional $5,000 for utility expenses due to having the new facility, as well as being able to hire one additional dispatcher and giving employees a 50 cent raise.
Starting pay for Antelope County deputies is currently $12 per hour. It’s $10 per hour for dispatchers.
Complaints were also made about the few number of inmates, although the current number is above capacity for the previous jail.
One audience member last week called for the new jail to be shut down. After a nearly three-hour meeting, that didn’t sit well with supervisor Charlie Henery.
Moore said part of the recent attack on both him and the facility stems from misunderstanding that the jail isn’t a for-profit entity.
While cutting the number of cells in half saved about $900,000, it actually cost the county any chances of housing prisoners and receiving regular revenue from the state.
Another issue for many county jails has been the legislative push for probation sentencing as compared to jail or even prison terms.
The county supervisors will again discuss the budget at their meeting Tuesday, Sept. 9.