Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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February 24, 2014

Tax money big for jail upgrades

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — Voters across Garvin County will get their chance on March 4 to voice their opinions on a countywide sales tax up for renewal.

The half cent tax was first approved back in 2007 as the measure on this new ballot is asking voters to extend it for another seven years.

One of the areas benefiting from the tax since voters first said yes has been the county sheriff’s department, which oversees the county jail.

It’s this jail that’s experienced many of the more dramatic changes with most of those unseen by the general public.

Still, Sheriff Larry Rhodes says the revenues from this tax have allowed for a long list upgrades and have all but saved the jail facility.

The sheriff calls the monies from this tax invaluable in upgrading the jail, which had fallen way behind in keeping up with the required standards for facilities of this kind.

“In a nutshell this kept our jail open,” Rhodes said about the tax over the past seven years.

“Most of the money was spent on making the jail ADA compliant,” he said, referring to handicap related upgrades.

“It’s kept it open, and we’re proud of our jail. Now we get clean inspections and it’s a safe jail.

“Over the past seven years you’ll see a history of good jail inspections. That money has gotten it to the level where we have a safe, secure, a very good jail.

“It’s been critical in the improvements to the jail and the overall operation of this office.”

Undersheriff Jim Mullett, who helps manage the jail, says the tax money has done so much starting with the first upgrade in the jail’s kitchen area.

“The improvements to the kitchen brought it up to a commercial grade kitchen,” Mullett said.

“This was one of the first projects that we did with the tax money,” he said about the remodeling of the entire kitchen, which includes a stainless steel refrigerator and freezer.

Other improvements have been a commercial quality washer and dryer, a new security system within the jail and a new video system allowing inmates to remain in jail for video court arraignments.

Areas upgraded were bathrooms, the jail’s book-in area, change out room for inmates and the tax money helped pay for an expansion and remodeling of additional office space given to the sheriff’s office in the courthouse.

Both Rhodes and Mullett said the tax revenues have also allowed the office to match a grant and get the additional funding for a fingerprint scanner.

Tax money also allowed for upgraded heating and air conditioning, exterior lighting, three vans used to transport inmates and other “intangibles” that have benefited the office.

“A majority of that quarter of the tax went for jail upgrades and the maintenance and operation of the jail,” Rhodes said.

“The improvements we have made would have been hard to make without that tax money.”

“We’re proud that people supported us this way,” Mullett said about the tax proposal approved by voters seven years ago.

Another big plus from the tax money is it has supplemented the sheriff’s office in dealing with fuel expenses, while also allowing for the acquisition of newer patrol vehicles to replace the ones getting up there in the mileage logged on Garvin County’s roads.

Yet another is keeping up with the rising costs of food for inmates, along with jail supplies.

“We’ve been good stewards of this money over the past seven years,” Rhodes said. “We’ll continue to be good stewards of this money.

“We’ll use it to improve on what we have now and keep building on that.”

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