SANDPOINT–First District Judge Charles W. Hosack ruled Friday that a planned lease-purchase scheme to build a jail and detention facility violates the Idaho Constitution, specifically a provision that requires a public vote on debts and liabilities that extend beyond one fiscal year.
Under the plan, property at the sheriff’s office complex in Sandpoint would have been leased to Rocky Mountain Corrections. The private company would then finance construction of a 34-bed juvenile lockup and 60-bed work release center. The county would pay more than $782,000 a year and would own the buildings after 30 years, financing the plan through inmate fees and payments for inmates from other jurisdictions.
A similar lease-purchase plan is afoot in Caldwell for a new Urban Renewal Agency funded building to house the Oregon based Treasure Valley Community College. That plan is clearly in conflict with the constitution as well, but Caldwell officials are forging ahead with the project which the GUARDIAN suspects is illegal.
Also in Caldwell is yet another plan for a jail expansion–also long term debt that is being attempted contrary to the Idaho Constitution. There is a lawsuit pending over that one.
After the GUARDIAN editor won cases against Boise City over a proposed police building and an airport parking garage, cities have been scrambling to slip various schemes around the voters, including a proposed constitutional amendment to deny citizens the rights they currently hold.
The one thing all these schemes have in common is the local officials are adamantly against allowing the citizens their constitutional voter rights to approve debt in excess of a single year’s revenues.
As citizens have become empowered, the courts are increasingly looking favorably toward enforcing the constitutional mandate to allow the citizens the power they already hold over the pursestrings.
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