ADA — Pontotoc County Commissioners have been working in conjunction with a committee to review solutions to solve the county jail problems since October 2005. In October 2006, the county called for a county sales tax election for Dec. 12. Out of the 77 counties in Oklahoma, Pontotoc and four others do not have a county sales tax.

The problems surrounding the jail resulted in an administrative action against the county taken by the State Health Department March 6, 2006, citing numerous violations of the Oklahoma Jail Standards. A hearing was held in Oklahoma City June 27, 2006, with county officials given a timetable for solving the problems and another hearing set for Dec. 19, 2006, to determine if the county has complied with all of the requirements set by the administrative law judge.

County commissioners were required to perform a needs assessment of the facility by Aug. 15. A project cost estimate, finding a solution, site report and the formation of a public trust to manage the project was accomplished by the Sept. 15 deadline. County commissioners determined a sales tax would be the most equitable method to finance new criminal justice center (county jail) structured to provide the necessary revenues to fund the jail, courthouse improvements and fund the ongoing operations and maintenance costs.

The proposition language published in October for the ballot cannot be changed, according to election laws and the constraints of the administrative court, however, after the deadline for calling the county sales tax election, the project was refined to yield a significantly lower total construction budget estimate, according to county commissioners.

County commissioners say they have conservatively estimated they should be able to retire all of the project debt in approximately 15 years instead of the anticipated 20 years, subject to receiving actual construction bids and actual sales tax receipts over the time period the county commissioners have a conservative.

“Pontotoc county will conduct a county-wide election for a sales tax in the amount of 11/16 of one cent (0.06875 percent) for a term not-to-exceed 20 years from its effective date,” said Carl Wages, chairman of the board of commissioners. “Whichever is earlier, the project debt is retired or the 20 years ending in 2027, the 9/16ths of one cent will end. The operation and maintenance will continue to be funded by 1/8 of one cent after the 20 years or until repealed by the voters.”

County commissioners are scheduling public meetings to provide more detailed information prior to the Dec. 12 election.

For more information, contact meeting organizers Judge Tom Landrith and Janice Burns at (580) 332-8940.