Many days, despite its 148-bed capacity, the Sarpy County Jail is overcrowded by up to 50 inmates.

That forces some people incarcerated there to sleep on sled-like portable beds in the jail’s gym. In addition to being squeezed for room, the jail’s leaders also say the jail lacks adequate mental health services, leaving workers unable to care for the 28% of inmates with a diagnosed mental illness.

If plans for a new $65 million jail move forward, those issues could be solved, officials say.

The Sarpy County Board on Tuesday is expected to vote on a resolution detailing the location and financial plans for a new jail. Details released Friday indicate that the facility will be on the west side of the Sarpy County Courthouse, land that currently includes a parking lot near 84th Street and Highway 370.

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Tuesday’s vote will come after years of planning by Sarpy County leaders. The current jail, which does not meet state standards, was built in 1989 and began facing overcrowding issues in the mid-1990s, according to the county.

The new facility could have 400 beds and include space for mental health care and services to help inmates reintegrate into life outside jail.

The jail will be paid for with a portion of the county’s existing levy and a portion of inheritance tax revenue, county leaders said. Together, those funding sources would allocate about $6 million a year toward the project under 2019 property valuation figures.

The $65 million price tag, an updated estimate, includes site preparation, design and construction.

“We will build a new, much needed multimillion-dollar jail without raising property taxes,” Sarpy County Board Chairman Don Kelly said in a statement. “This doesn’t happen by chance, but by keeping a close eye on the bottom line and our hands out of the taxpayer’s wallet.”

At its meeting Tuesday, the County Board will vote on a resolution that specifies the location and cost details. Formal design work could begin in early 2020 once an architectural agreement is reached.

The new facility could open as early as 2023.

Conceptual plans for the jail released last February showed a three-story, $70 million facility that would have required the demolition of two county-owned annex buildings on the east side of the Sarpy County campus. Those plans are no longer being pursued.

Kelly said the location of the new facility will have minimal impact on neighboring property owners. The area in question is essentially bounded by 84th Street, Highway 370 and other Sarpy County campus buildings.

“Our goal is to blend the design as seamlessly as possible into our existing campus,” Kelly said. “Many people may not even be aware we’ve had a jail on our existing campus for decades, and we’d like to keep it that way.”

The current jail’s overcrowding issues have required that the county transport inmates to other jurisdictions for boarding, which costs the county about $500,000 each year, an amount officials expect to climb.

“We want this project to be successful for everyone involved,” County Board Vice Chairman Jim Warren said in a statement. “Most of all, we want it to be a win for taxpayers. This funding plan accomplishes that.”

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Reece covers Sarpy County for The World-Herald. He's a born-and-raised Nebraskan and UNL grad who spent time in Oklahoma and Virginia before returning home. Follow him on Twitter @reecereports. Phone: 402-444-1127

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