#ELECTIONDAY: Canyon County votes against new jail bond

Posted at 3:24 PM, May 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-22 13:17:45-04

UPDATE: 6 On Your Side has now learned that Canyon County citizens voted against the new jail bond. Only 34 percent of voters gave their approval, while 66 percent were against.

The $187 million bond would have secured funds to build a new Canyon County Jail on a piece of land west of Caldwell near the Interstate and US Highway 20/26-- land the county purchased several years ago.

At the Hispanic Cultural Center of Idaho polling place, there were times where 10 minutes went by without a single voter walking through the door.

"So far I would call it a light turn out," said Chris Yamamoto, Canyon County Clerk.

A light turn out for what was a heavy topic for stakeholders leading up to this election.

"We've had up to and including homicide occur while a person was out on pre-trial release," said Captain Daren Ward, Canyon County Sheriff.

Ward says he would have welcomed the bond that would have allowed the county to build a new 1,055-bed jail. Of the reported 700 men and women who are currently on pre-trial release, there are, "400 some people... that do not meet our risk assessment," according to Ward. This is presenting a public safety issue for the community, Ward said.

"There are a percentage of people that do need to be in a jail," said Ward.

This election is now the fourth time this measure has been presented to voters. It failed the last three times.

"Yeah I had issues. I didn't get to have a say in it. Now I do. No jail!" said Kenneth Ambrose.

Ambrose says he voted no, not so much because of the cost-- but rather because of this: "Remember when they bought the property? They did it without voter approval. Okay? That's stuck in my craw."

Officials say an approval of the new jail would have provided mental health services that would assist in reducing recidivism.

The jail would have cost property owners about $90 dollars annually per $100,000 dollars of property value. In light of those costs, Yamamoto cast more than just a vote today... he also cast some doubt.

"Taxes are very high already, we've had uh-- between the school bonds, and Nampa Sewer, and this, that, and the other... I think the jail bond will fail and probably fail in a pretty big way," said Yamamoto.

He added, "People understand the need, they just want to know how we're going to pay for it. That's why I and others have lobbied the legislature to give us another vehicle other than property tax. Right now everything's laid on the property tax people, and I understand where they're coming from, so, we'd like to see a local option text to where we could spread this out more evenly."

He said impact fees should be considered as a source of funding.

"They could be a small part of the answer," said Yamamoto.

But no matter the source of funding, proponents of the bond see growth as justification for building a new jail in a timely manner. As the population grows, unfortunately so does the crime in Canyon County communities. From September 1, 2018 through February 28, 2019 there were 5,227 people booked in the Canyon County Jail.

Canyon County's population was 90,076 when the Dale Haile jail facility was built. Today, the population is 217,180-- a 141 percent increase in residents.

The Canyon County Jail is not just one building that houses the 477 inmates incarcerated today, but rather three facilities being used to maximize all options. As 6 On Your Side previously reported, there is not enough room to house the amount of inmates the jail currently receives.

Several town halls have taken place over the past few weeks, some even turning heated as people voiced their concerns.

“My daughter, she’s a mother of two, she’s a homeowner and she struggles as it is now,” said a community member.

Click here to view the Canyon County election results.