Franklin County commissioners have signed off on the sale of $20 million in bonds to remodel and expand the jail and to upgrade a county-wide computer system to provide greater financial accountability.
Commissioners took advantage of record low interest rates in obtaining the money, of which $1.2 million will go toward the computer software upgrade.
The new software is expected to prevent theft, which has become a county priority after the recent discovery of the alleged theft of $2.8 million from the public works department. Commissioners approved the $1.1 million software purchase in March.
Dennis M. Huston, public works accounting and administrative director, was arrested in February in connection with the crime and later released. He is not charged with a crime but has been fired. The department's director also was fired for department mismanagement.
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Franklin County filed a civil lawsuit against Huston and his wife, seeking more than $2.8 million the county claims Huston embezzled since 1996.
The state Attorney General's Office still is investigating the case.
The remaining money from the bond sale will be used for the jail remodel.
The county can expect to receive its money next month. Payments will begin next year, with installments due Jan. 1 and July 1.
Jim Nelson, of Martin Nelson and Co., a financial services company in Seattle, told commissioners they did well in timing the bonds sale, which locked in the jail's 30-year bonds at 3.86 percent, while the computer upgrade bonds obtained a 2.54 percent rate for 121/2 years.
By piggybacking the two bond issues in a single sale, the county saved on bond counsel costs.
"The last number I heard was about $15,000," said Commissioner Bob Koch.
Funds from a 0.3 percent public safety sales tax voters approved in November will pay for the new and remodeled county jail, and add Pasco Municipal Court space, a Pasco police station and a gang suppression program.
The county receives 60 percent of the revenue, and the rest will be divided among Franklin County cities based on their population.
The 0.3 percent public safety sales tax will be collected beginning April 1.
The new and remodeled jail will be a two-tiered building with cell blocks arranged in a wheel around a small area where the overhead master control booth hangs. An officer inside it would control the interlocked doors and monitor the cells by sight and video.
Koch said most of the architectural drawings are done and the county hopes to go to bid in August. That could see construction beginning in the fall, he said.
The project requires removing two modular buildings that had served as temporary facilities for ancillary jail use, a Superior Court hearing room and coroner's office.
The county had no offers to purchase the modulars, so their demolition will be included in the construction bid, Koch said.
The expanded jail will be built first, then inmates will be moved from the current jail to the expansion so the remodel of the existing jail can take place.
The expanded jail will be north of the current jail, with a two-story administration building that may have Pasco Municipal Court on the first floor and the sheriff's office, information services and dispatch center on the second floor.
The administration building will face Fourth Avenue and feature brick and mortar similar to the county courthouse.
Construction is expected to take 16 to 18 months to finish both phases.