Still No Solution on What to Do With Warren County Inmates After Jail Shuts Down

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INDIANOLA, Iowa  --  It was a possibility that the Warren County Board of supervisors had known for years: its jail could be shut down due to issues of mold, sewer smells, and limited space.

That possibility became a reality on Thursday after a review of the jail. On Friday, the board met to discuss its options, and those who sat in on the meeting hoped to come away with a solution.

That didn’t happen.

Several ideas were suggested, but the board did not consider acting on any of them. It's a frustrating situation for those in law enforcement who are already having to ship inmates to neighboring jails.

“We've come to the board as far as law enforcement, I think, a few weeks ago, with some alternatives. We haven't heard back, so, what’s the board’s plan?” asked Warren County Sheriff Brian Vos.

For a moment, the sheriff and Board Chair Doug Shull looked at each other in silence.

"That's a good question," replied Shull.

One of the alternatives to transferring and housing all the inmates in other jails is to set up temporary housing on the court property.  A company modifies tractor trailers to house inmates.

“It's two trailers that are stainless steel, wrapped in stainless steel, anchored to a parking lot. The electricity and water would come from the courthouse, and it's going to cost $20,000 a month,” Supervisor Crystal McIntyre previously explained to Channel 13.

Split between the cities and the county it would cost $5,000 a month, which McIntyre says is a small price to pay. However, the board couldn't come to an agreement on that proposal with Supervisors Shull and Dean Yordi hesitant about the location.

“Is there someplace else we could put the trailers other than on the square?” asked Yordi.

“So you talk about the trailers somewhere else, you know you're going to have more costs on those trailers to do that,” replied Vos.

“And why is that?” asked Yordi.

“Because you won't be able to use the facilities we already have at the courthouse,” Vos responded.

If the trailers were placed in the town square, they could use electricity, water, laundry facilities, and the kitchen already in place at the courthouse.

The lack of action is frustrating those involved, like Carlisle Mayor Drew Merrifield.

“It is very frustrating to know that we've had this amount of time and nothing has transpired. One of them mentioned that government works slow, I'm in government and I'm a pusher. I don't like to just sit back and wait for things to happen, I want to make them happen now, let’s go, so I'm not a procrastinator, so hearing one of them say that is kinda disturbing,” he said.

One of the reasons Merrifield is disturbed is that because of the jail's poor condition, police departments say they are stretching themselves thin transporting prisoners to neighboring jails, instead.

“If we take officers off the road, that is leaving the citizens of Norwalk exposed to transport prisoners. At a minimum, we're looking at a two-hour window, just a minimum two-hour window to transfer prisoners to Jasper County Jail,” said Kirk Westvold, Assistant Chief of Norwalk Police.

The result of the meeting had Sheriff Vos and the rest of the room still waiting for answers.

“So we can have a meeting here next week where we can discuss more of this and have a solution?” Vos asked.

“I don't know about a solution,” responded Shull.

Earlier in the month, Channel 13 reported that Supervisor Yordi had negotiated to buy between 18 and 20 acres of land to build a new jail. That was supposed to be on the Tuesday agenda, but according to Supervisor McIntyre, Yordi took it off before it could be voted on.

Yordi made a plan during Friday’s meeting to meet privately with Sheriff Vos and other police chiefs on Monday to discuss solutions to this problem.