CANYON COUNTY -- Back in 2007, Canyon County bought 24 acres of property for $1.7 million with plans that it would be the site for a new jail.
But after voters failed to pass two levies to pay for the land, Canyon County commissioners say it's time to sell the property, but the sheriff disagrees.
The current Canyon County Jail is around 20 years old, and Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue says a new jail is overdue, but the county commission said the citizens have said no.
The new jail would sit off U.S. Highway 20/26, near Interstate 84.
Canyon County Commissioner Kathy Alder said the voters failed to pass three different levies to pay for a new jail. Now, she has new ideas for the property.
We decided that perhaps now that the economy is taking a different turn and land is increasing, we decided it might be well to put it out on the market, said Alder.
The county commissioners want to put the land up for auction with a minimum bid starting at $1.1 million. Alder hopes someone who could benefit the community would buy the land.
It's zoned industrial, and we would like to see somebody come in who could bring some job opportunities for our citizens here in Canyon County, said Alder. We want to get it back on the tax rolls.
However, Donahue said the county would be better served with a new jail.
We're reaching a desperate situation, this county, in my opinion, from a public safety standpoint, said Donahue.
Donahue said the jail is not designed to industry standards. Plus, with growing population in the county the sheriff's office is having a hard time accommodating all the inmates, and that means that some inmates have to be sent to a jail in another county.
Last month alone we spent $12,000 in out of county costs of taxpayer dollars to house out of county inmates, Donahue said.
Donahue said other inmates are sent to alternative sentencing programs, and he estimates that 100-200 inmates in those programs should probably still be in jail, but they don't have the room.
Alder wants to form a citizens committee to determine what comes next for the jail, but Donahue wants to keep the property in county hands and keep trying to get a new jail built.