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Commissioners have parting words on levy


With a Nov. 5 Election Day near, commissioners sound pre-emptive alarm

FisherColumbia County commissioners sounded frustrated as they spoke about the operating jail levy for which they have advocated Wednesday, Oct. 30, the day of their last Board of County Commissioners meeting before Election Day.

Commissioner Earl Fisher reiterated the concern he and other county officials have expressed in recent months that the Columbia County Jail will close unless voters approve the $9.57 million levy while speaking at the board’s morning meeting.

“This is, I think, the most important issue that we have immediately facing this county, is whether or not we’re going to have a facility that holds criminals or we’re going to take the few that we can afford to transport and transport them,” Fisher said.

Fisher appeared to allude to criticism from leading levy opponent Brady Preheim and others that the 255-bed jail should never have been built in the first place.

“It’s one of those places where people, again, have to look at the cold light of day,” said Fisher. “They can think all they want about, ‘Well, they should have done this, and they should have done that.’ That’s hindsight.”

Fisher continued, “I know there are some folks that are always looking for excuses not to do something, but the excuse is going to be that if they don’t vote for this, in two weeks, this room will be full of people who are upset that we don’t have a jail. All I can say to them is, ‘That’s your problem. You voted for it. You need to make sure that you stand up and be responsible as citizens.’ ... We need to get off of finding excuses not to do things.”

Fisher has suggested that the jail could close in a matter of months if the levy is not passed, although Columbia County Undersheriff Andy Moyer, commander at the jail, said recently that the jail is funded through next June unless the United States Marshals Service, which rents up to 85 beds at the facility, pulls out.

Speaking after the meeting ended, Commissioner Henry Heimuller admitted that he and the other two commissioners had not spent as much time campaigning for the levy as he would have liked. Their duties as elected officials have consumed much of their time, he said.

“Mr. Preheim is out there, you know, with a few people campaigning actively against it,” Heimuller said. “And you know, I wish I had the time in a day to do that as well, in favor of it, as much as he has against it. But nonetheless, it’s just not reality.”