CALDWELL, Idaho — With four failed jail bond elections since 2006, Canyon County Commissioners are exploring other ways to fund a new jail that wouldn’t require a public vote.

They discussed impact fees last week, but were unclear if those could apply to a jail.

RELATED: Canyon County commissioners consider impact fees to pay for new jail, public safety improvements

Another option brought to the commissioners Monday is called annual appropriation lease structure. With this method, private investors would pay for the jail construction, and the county would lease the facility and pay back the cost over time. The county would staff and design the building.

Canyon County’s jail is consistently over the recommended capacity, at 80% full. The county owns land off Highway 20/26 and Pond Lane where commissioners have proposed to build the jail. Construction costs as of May are estimated to be $187 million.

With the annual appropriation lease structure method, the county would select a trustee, typically a bank, to act as a facilitator between the county and its investors who would fund construction.

“The trustee owns (the jail) on paper, but as long as the county is making payments, they have full rights to it,” Eric Heringer, managing director of Piper Jaffray, told commissioners at Monday’s meeting.

Commissioners are still looking at the Pond Lane property as the new jail site and haven’t considered other locations, Commissioner Tom Dale said. The current jail is near downtown Caldwell.

Dale told the Idaho Press the county is in the “very preliminary stages” of looking into the lease structure.

“We are just exploring putting everything on the table to find out if there are other financial tools to the county to build an adequate new jail,” he said.

Dale said his biggest concern with this method is that the county would have to find existing tax revenue to pay back the lease.

In his presentation, Heringer gave an interest cost estimate of 3.27% on the lease payments.

Dale said the revenue could come from growth, or from property tax revenue that will come back to the city’s budget after urban renewal districts sunset in Caldwell.

The county would need to renew the lease agreement each year, and when it is paid off, the county would own the facility.

Canyon County is not the first in Idaho to explore an annual appropriation lease structure, Heringer said. Ada County, Boise and other counties in Idaho have used the method to lease city and county facilities.

In his presentation, Heringer gave an interest cost estimate of 3.27% on the lease payments.

Dale said the revenue could come from growth, or from property tax revenue that will come back to the city’s budget after urban renewal districts sunset in Caldwell.

The county would need to renew the lease agreement each year, and when it is paid off, the county would own the facility.

Canyon County is not the first in Idaho to explore an annual appropriation lease structure, Heringer said. Ada County, Boise and other counties in Idaho have used the method to lease city and county facilities.

This structure became a legal way to fund municipal projects in a 2015 Idaho Supreme Court ruling. The court found the annual appropriation lease structure was a legal way to fund the downtown Boise convention center expansion in the Greater Boise Auditorium District.

The lack of a public vote in this method is a concern to Canyon County Commissioner Leslie Van Beek. She said the county would need to still be transparent to residents if it takes voting out of the process.

RELATED: Voters overwhelmingly reject $187 million request to build new Canyon County jail

Another funding option commissioners are exploring to fund jail construction is impact fees. In a meeting on Friday, Commissioner Pam White floated the idea. Anne Wescott with of Galena Consulting, with has consulted with several local government agencies on impact fee rates, told commissioners other counties are also interested in using impact fees for jail facilities. She said she would like to meet with county attorneys to understand the legal definition of law enforcement, which is eligible for impact fee funding, to see if the term includes corrections facilities.

Without funding for a new jail, the county has taken temporary precautions for jail overcrowding. Officials are expecting 122-bed temporary jail trailers to arrive next month to house the jail’s female inmates, thus creating space in the permanent facility.

The trailers are set to arrive between Oct. 28 and Nov. 4. Commissioners and Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue have previously said the facility is intended to be temporary.

Commissioners will have another meeting to talk about jail financing alternatives with Banner Bank on Friday.

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.

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