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With no jail for 20 years, Carbon County renews effort to build $19 million detention facility

The public is invited to weigh in Wednesday night at a community public informational meeting
Rendering of proposed Carbon County Detention Center
Posted at 11:52 AM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 20:10:07-04

RED LODGE – Officials in Carbon County say they’re hoping the public will get behind a $19 million bond to build a new detention center after the county’s jail closed some 20 years ago.

Wednesday will kick off a series of informational meetings regarding the proposal with the election for the bond happening on Aug. 6.

“At the end of the day we must ask our constituents what it is they want in their community,” said Carbon County Commissioner Bill Bullock.

He says in addition to the price tag associated with the actual building of the detention center, another $2 million will go before voters for operating the jail.

The average price to a homeowner for the jail is roughly $80 for a home valued at $100,000, or $161 for a home valued at roughly $200,000.

“Some people think it's a no-brainer, and it's something that's needed. Some folks adamantly oppose it,” said Bullock.

Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan wants voters to know the reality of how his department is coping with no jail in the county.

Deputies in Carbon County are spending as many as 9 hours on the road traveling from county to county to find a jail that will house a Carbon County inmate.

“We either don't put people in jail that normally would be or if we have to transport a bulk of our prisoners to Gallatin County,” the sheriff said.

That’s when the county jail has room.

The same goes for nearby Yellowstone County, where the jail has had a constant issue with overcrowding. Officials say most often prisoners from Carbon County end up being transported to Broadwater County or Rosebud County.

A roundtrip transport costs as much as $852 a day for Broadwater County, and as much as $529 to drive a prisoner to Rosebud County.

And it's also costing the county to buy those beds from other county jails.

“We got back a couple of board bills, between the two of the facilities we utilize one being Gallatin County one being Broadwater County, and the total of that board bill is almost $30,000,” said Bullock.

“So that is the time period in which there are no deputies, or that deputy is not available for calls, and really reduces our manpower,” said McQuillan.

Carbon County map of proposed Jail
Map of proposed Carbon County Detention Center

The county jail went away back in 2001 and as talks have been happening throughout the years on what to do, Bullock said the timing is crucial.

“This is meeting the requirements statutorily that we're obligated to provide our citizens,” said Bullock.

The county land has already been purchased and a spot has been picked out along highway 212 across from Duffield Road in Joliet.

So that’s why county officials are renewing talks to build the 53-bed detention facility.

“You know at the end of the day this is a cost for taxpayers. I've got to pay it. Everybody's got to pay their fair share of that bond amount for their property taxes,” said Bullock.

The sheriff says time spent traveling could be time spend protecting.

“I mean, yesterday we left it at two o'clock in the afternoon to go to Gallatin County for transport. And, you know that person got back at six o'clock last night,” said McQuillan. “That's, that's unacceptable. I think if people truly want public safety, they need to pay for it.”

Officials say if the bond is approved by voters the facility could be complete in November 2023.

Wednesday’s information meeting is set for 6 p.m. at the Fairgrounds in the Edgar Gruel Building.