Will county officials get the message from voters?

Simply Biased
Thursday, December 6, 2018

After two elections to get approval to build a new jail – one being a mill levy election and the second to approve financing – were shot down by the voters, our county officials still are trying to figure out how to get it built.

In 2016, the voters of Big Horn County defeated the mill levy 60 to 40 percent. This past November, the county’s attempt to finance the jail was again defeated 57 to 43 percent.

Even an unofficial poll done by the Big Horn County News on our website before the 2016 election showed disapproval for building a new facility.

How many elections is it going to take before our county officials get the message?

Leading up to the election, I spoke with a number of local voters and the main reason they were voting “no” was clear: They wanted to use the empty Two Rivers Detention Facility.

Many stated if the Two Rivers facility was open and running, they would have no problem with the county expanding their jail.

Another reason given to me for voting “no” dealt with the potential of future property tax increases. One Crow gentleman told me he was voting against the jail, saying, “It just gives them more reason to lock more of our people up.”

What bothers me most is our county officials don’t seem to understand every dollar they have is not their money; it belongs to the people of Big Horn County.

Now, they are talking about using approximately $5 million from their reserve fund to build a smaller jail to house 60 prisoners instead of the intended 90. While this is not the only idea batted around by officials, they need to realize it’s up to the people to decide the best way to spend the money. I’d say two elections and two defeats is sending that message.

I hear county officials continually state that using Two Rivers would cost too much money to run, it doesn’t meet standards, it has no outside recreation area and the ACLU has problems with it.

Voters don’t see these issues as being problems. What they see is an empty facility with potential to become a positive asset for the community instead of what it currently is, a negative.

Our county leaders, working with Two Rivers, in my opinion can come up with a solution that is a win-win for everybody.

Let me remind all our city, county, state and federal officials: We don’t work for you, you work for us. It would be nice if you start listening.


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