LAS VEGAS (AP) - Clark County commissioners are considering whether to delay opening a new jail for low-level criminal offenders to save money.
County staff members asked the commission on Tuesday to delay opening the 1,038-bed jail near Nellis Air Force Base for a year to save $13 million in operating costs and offset a budget crunch.
An assistant sheriff urged commissioners to open more than 300 beds at the new facility or grant the two sides more time to find a compromise.
Sheriff Doug Gillespie has argued that the high-rise Clark County jail in downtown Las Vegas is overcrowded, and that the new facility is needed to handle inmates charged with misdemeanors and some nonviolent felonies.
The sheriff was out of town Tuesday, when the commission heard arguments about whether to keep the $128 million jail complex empty for a year.
Those who supported the delay said the inmate population at the downtown jail has dropped 4.6 percent since it peaked two years ago at about 3,700 inmates. The building was designed to have just under 3,000 beds.
A local developer, the Molasky Group, is finishing work on the new 200,000-square-foot jail under a plan for the county to lease it for 10 years at a total cost of $113 million and then buy it at full market price.
Even if the jail remains unused, the county is on the hook to pay $11.3 million in yearly lease payments.
Critics have complained that the county is overpaying because the lease payments to Molasky over the next decade won't be applied to the purchase price.
County officials say they approved the deal to get the jail built quickly to ease overcrowding.
Officials say the county currently pays $11.5 million a year to house 340 inmates at jails in other jurisdictions.
Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com
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