The biggest race in Antrim County’s 2020 primary is for Sheriff.
1. Do you support the Stepping Up Program to reduce jail population? Do you feel that the Sheriff should make this one of his priorities? Please explain.
Bean: I do support the step up program. The program really isn’t to reduce the population but to help CMH gather statistics on initial bookings for those clients coming to jail. This is supposed to help CMH get a better picture of those entering the jail. We are in the process of meeting with CMH and getting the information they need into our booking process to help with the evaluation of those clients.
Cole: Yes! This would be a top priority for me to pursue as Sheriff. It is a shame it hasn’t been implemented already as promised. Any opportunity to work with programs that will help reduce the county jail population will be actively sought out. Keeping families together and finding the right mix of support greatly reduces recidivism. Additionally, I will work with and utilize my connections with local, state and federal elected officials to learn what other counties and states are doing to ensure we are turning over every stone and on the cutting edge for what programming is available and what is working well in similar communities. Communication and working together is key here. I have built and utilize a broad network in my current position
2. Which of the options do you believe the board should pursue as far as renovating or building a new jail? Please explain.
Bean: Building a new jail/administration office is the way it should be done. This facility has been added on too so often that the utilities Plumbing, electrical etc.) are antiquated. The other issue is the safety for inmates and corrections officers and the liability with the old linear style compared to the newer pod design that that helps with the safety for inmates and corrections staff but also reduces liability for the county (which in the end is the tax payers).
Cole: I recently learned that an idea/plan to use a portion of the current county building was also privately paid for and put before the sheriff as well. It was ignored for an extended period of time. At this time, continuing with comparisons of all options is prudent. This is not a taxpayer funded project to be taken lightly or enter into blindly. Cost, longevity and future flexibility all must be carefully weighed out. As well as any local, regional or statewide partnerships for a facility to address the larger mental health needs and issues. Remember, anytime an individual is an official inmate they lose Medicaid healthcare coverage. The county becomes responsible for the costs incurred for treatment and care of any and all conditions. From dental procedures to expensive high risk pregnancies. We need the greatest flexibility and not just cells to lock people up.
3. Should the Board hire a Structural Engineer to evaluate the current jail for an addition, since it was built to accommodate two stories?
Bean: It is my understanding that the current structure cannot hold a second story. I do believe that the current structure has been added onto enough and moving forward with a new structure is the best way to go.
Cole: Of course, this is common sense and my answer to the above question is applicable here as well.
4. Do you believe that the citizens should be able to vote on this project? Or do you think a board that is split 5-4 should have the $76 million decision?
Bean: The jail/law administration building is not $76 million. It is more like $21 to $24 million according to the Facilities Master Plan. On July 18, 2019 there was a motion to postpone moving forward with the Facilities Master Plan, which ended in a 4 to 4 vote. Being a tie, the motion died at the table. Currently, as I understand it, the Board is working toward a consensus on how to move forward.
Cole: I believe that we elect a board of Commissioners to their positions to make decisions on our behalf. They are entrusted to make decisions and they answer to voters every other year. That being said, a project of this size should either require a 3/4 positive vote of the Commissioners and or be put before the voters.
5. How do you think the project should be funded? Fund balance / millage vote / bonding our children’s future?
Bean: It probably should be a mix of fund balance and bonding. The commissioners were elected to make this type of decision.That is something the board needs to decide if the project moves forward.
Cole: If it is decided to proceed forward, all funding mechanisms should be put on the table and evaluated. This is an example of a significant communication gap and where a survey of our county taxpayers may be appropriate. Putting our children in greater debt, potentially raising property taxes and making it unaffordable for our young people to stay close to their families in our community is not very appealing to me.