A proposal to increase the sales tax to build and operate a new Asotin County Jail will be heading to voters in November.

The plan cleared two big hurdles Monday night with unanimous approvals of interlocal agreements by both the Asotin and Clarkston city councils. The agreements spell out how the proceeds from a 0.3 percent sales tax would be used exclusively for a new jail — if the increase gets the green light from Asotin County voters.

“The money would be used strictly for the jail,” said Asotin Mayor Pro-Tem Jennifer Bly. “That’s something we all wanted.”

Next on the to-do list is a resolution from the Asotin County commissioners to get the proposal before voters during the general election. With the Aug. 6 deadline looming, officials said they’re pleased the interlocal agreements are ironed out, and Asotin County can move forward with the plan.

A jail advisory committee recommended a new jail after researching the issue for more than a year. The group of elected officials, law enforcement and citizens determined the current jail is operating in crisis mode because of overcrowding and outdated equipment and must be replaced.

Between now and the election, the group plans to hold town hall meetings, talk to organizations and raise support for the sales tax increase. Asotin County Fire Chief Noel Hardin said it amounts to 3 cents more on every $10 purchase and is estimated to bring in $800,000 to $1 million a year.

At the Asotin meeting, city attorney Jane Richards reminded her council that the city’s portion of the sales tax, about $51,000, will forever go toward jail operations, staffing and improvements.

“The point is, we use maybe 2 percent of that jail,” Richards said. “We have one person arrested per month here, if that. I can see contributing until the jail is built, but do you want to be forever contributing?”

Councilor Joe Appleton said it will be up to Asotin County voters to determine whether they want to fund a new jail through a sales tax increase, and it won’t cost the city of Asotin anything.

“I don’t have any problems with it,” Appleton said.

Asotin Police Chief Monte Renzelman said building a new jail is a community issue, rather than a city of Asotin or city of Clarkston issue.

“We have to look out for the community as a whole,” Renzelman said.

The Asotin City Council approved of the interlocal agreement with a 5-0 vote.

An hour later, the Clarkston City Council took a look at the same agreement and voted 6-0 in favor of signing it.

Clarkston Mayor Monika Lawrence said she originally had 12 to 15 questions and every one of them has been answered. “I’m confident we have an agreement that would satisfy the city of Clarkston,” she said.

Sandaine may be contacted at kerris@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2264. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.

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