The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Nothing to celebrate with groundbreaking for jail renovations


May 23, 2018

Curry County on Tuesday celebrated the groundbreaking for $11.6 million worth of improvements to the jail.

But many of us are not celebrating.

That’s because county officials asked voters three times, in three dramatically different ways over three years, for money to renovate the jail or build a new one.

Three times voters said no.

And so county commissioners just took the money, raising sales taxes for the next 19 years to generate $14 million plus interest.

It’s ironic that the last sentence on the county agenda at the groundbreaking read, “Thanks to the Taxpayers of Curry County for funding this project.” It’s not often a robber thanks his victim.

Commissioners at the time justified their actions in two ways:

1) only a small percentage of people voted, so those elections did not necessarily reflect the opinions of the majority;

2) the people who voted did not understand the need for a new jail. It was a public safety issue, they said.

Truth is, that’s how most elections go. And the jail issues were spelled out clearly in advance of the elections, with brochures and videos and public meetings out the wazoo.

Truth is, county officials wanted the money, and they took it. And there was nothing we could do about it.

Commissioners today will tell you they had nothing to do with the 2014 decision to go against taxpayers’ wishes. Only Ben McDaniel was on the board then and he did not attend the meeting when the robbery took place, by a 4-0 vote. But all of today’s commissioners have had opportunity to stop the project, and no one even tried.

This all started with a series of jail escapes — 16 of them between 2002 and 2013, including eight one night in 2008.

Those responsible for operating the jail blamed the construction of the building.

Most of us blamed those who failed to watch the prisoners.

When the county finally found a competent jail administrator — Mark Gallegos arrived in January 2016 — those jail escapes miraculously ended.

In other words, the escapes were not the building’s fault after all.

You know what else is infuriating? County officials who claimed they had to have a new jail because of public safety concerns, stole the money from taxpayers, and then decided an even higher priority was luxurious office space for county administrators. And so they built that first, at a cost of nearly $4 million.


County officials are quick to point out the end result with the jail will be a state-of-the-art, safer facility that will offer more humane treatment for inmates.

We hope so.

But in this county where elections don’t matter, government just takes what it wants anyway, how can we be sure that is even true?

We have to rely on the integrity of today’s county commissioners — McDaniel, Angelina Baca, Seth Martin, Chet Spear and Robert Thornton.

Please, don’t let us down this time.

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc. editorial board, which includes Editor David Stevens and Publisher Rob Langrell.


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2018

Rendered 01/20/2019 17:50