Greene County Commission Approves Next Phase of Jail Related Bonds

The Greene County Commission has approved two new rounds of bonds to provide the next rounds of funding for construction of the new Greene County Jail and Sheriff’s Office.

The new bonds, Series 2021A and Series 2021B, will carry principal amounts of $36,880,000 and $15,500,000, with the funds targeted toward jail construction costs, equipment for the new jail and sheriff’s office, and juvenile courts and detention.

Greene County Budget Officer Jeff Scott told OI the new rounds of bonds are part of the jail’s revised plan based on savings found by Sheriff Jim Arnott in 2019 that changed the construction design and location for the jail.

Scott said the initial set of bonds for the jail were issued and were never meant to cover the entire cost of the jail. He said the first set of bonds were issued because payments had to be made to pay architects, and contractors that would be involved in the construction of the jail, which at the time was planned to be across the street from the historic Courthouse. Those plans fell out of favor when the building looked to end up with 8 floors and eliminated much of the parking available near the historic Courthouse.

“The first round of bonds would have taken care of what we needed to [in the original design],” Scott said. “But even though that would have taken care of one problem it would have created many more on our campus.”

The new bonds were able to be issued because of the savings that Sheriff Jim Arnott was able to generate from a redesign of the jail that allowed for more indirect supervision of the inmates. Scott said that Arnott’s design changes dropped the staffing increase for the expanded jail by 142 employees. The cost savings of those salaries over a 10 year period would be $97 million, which were then factored into the new jail design at the current site near the Springfield-Branson Regional Airport.

“The savings justified the additional expense,” Scott said.

Scott said the two rounds of bonds are connected to those savings. He also said residents should expect another round of bonds toward the end of 2021 that will be used for renovations and new spaces for the juvenile justice system as promised in the last tax measure to citizens.

Scott also told OI that while it might be hard for some to understand the funding process for the jail, you could look at it like a mortgage on a home.

“No one is expected to pay for a home all at once in cash,” Scott said. He said the bonds at the front took care of costs and the tax revenue of about 27 to 28 million a year is then used to make payments on the bond debt similar to monthly mortgage payments.

Scott went on to talk about the new jail allowing a redesign of the County campus. The former jail space is going to repurposed to help the County reduce the amount they pay for rent.

“The county is currently paying over 400 thousand a year in rent,” Scott said.

Scott said there will be a campus-wide master planning process that will include the repurposing of the jail once the new jail location is finished.

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