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Newscast 10.18.2023: Woodbury County Supervisors discuss hiring attorney related to jail opening delay; Woodbury County voters begin casting ballots for 2023 races

Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center jail rendering
Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center jail rendering

The Woodbury Country Board of Supervisors on Tuesday discussed the possibility of hiring a legal firm to look into whether a lawsuit may be filed related to financial damages that may result from a delayed opening of the $69 million new jail facility.

County Supervisors Matthew Ung, Mark Nelson, Keith Radig, and Jeremy Taylor all referenced the future possibility of needing legal representation to process whether the county has experienced a financial hit in funding the jail.

Ung said the financial impacts are being felt in terms of cost overruns and lost revenues by delaying budgeted fees coming from housing federal inmates.

Radig noted that a second entity, the Woodbury County Jail Authority, handles day-to-day oversight of the construction activities, while the role of county supervisors is in funding the jail, primarily from property taxes that are flowing for 20 years as the result of a bond issue affirmative vote in 2020.

Radig advocated for the county hiring an outside attorney, saying, “We are (financially) damaged by it not being opened on time.” At the previous weekly county supervisors meeting on October 10, several members of the public asked for accountability related to the delay in the jail opening.

The biggest cause of the delay was the recent discovery that a building element, called dampers, which help when fires break out, was not included. After Woodbury County voters in March 2020 approved a bond issue vote, county officials began work to pivot away from an outmoded jail in downtown Sioux City.

Additionally, today was the first day that voters in Woodbury County could cast early ballots in the Woodbury County Courthouse related to the November 7 municipal and school board elections, and the first person voted in that method at 8:26 a.m.

That courthouse early voting option will continue weekdays through Monday, November 6, the day before the election.

Wednesday also marked the first day that county auditors could mail out ballots to people who requested them. The Iowa Secretary of State’s office said 5,500 Iowans have requested such absentee ballots, and 640 of those are from Woodbury County.

Throughout Iowa, voters will select people to serve as mayors, city council members, and public school board members, contests that are set on odd-numbered election years.

In Sioux City, two city positions are being contested, with Mayor Bob Scott running unopposed by anyone on the ballot, while Julie Schoenherr and Tom Murphy vying for one seat on the Sioux City Council. There are five open positions on the Sioux City School Board, and 11 candidates are on the ballot.