Wild meeting on INS Detention Center in Oregon

Wild meeting on INS Detention Center in Oregon

By Julie Watt, Freelance Writer

Oregon—A town meeting sponsored by the Citizens to Preserve Oregon was held on Wednesday, Oct. 2. This is the second open forum meeting sponsored by a core group of Oregon residents fighting the Ogle County Board to stop the construction of a 640-bed INS Detention/County Jail/Prison facility 1.2 miles from downtown Oregon.

Those in attendance walked away with many of the facts that they have been waiting for. One, their sheriff is consistently over budget. Two, the city council can withdraw Mayor Mike Arians’ offer of free water and sewer hookups. And three, their county board members can vote to kill the project with INS and cancel the land option agreement with LOMC.

On August 20 the Ogle Co. Board voted 19-3 to enter into a 90-day option agreement to purchase 25 acres for $312,500 from Lutheran Outdoor Ministries.

Ed Smith, an Oregon business owner and member of the Preserve Oregon committee, moderated the meeting after walking the audience through a power point presentation with financial information including Sheriff Melvin Messer’s budget for the past five years reflecting a deficit of $599,000 in the last four years and $378,000 in the first eight months of this year. Tom Peters of Oregon, citing figures showing the sheriff over budget 22% already this fiscal year, was quoted in the Ogle Co. Life as saying, “We should have an outside auditor audit the sheriff’s department.” This comment was met with thunderous applause at the meeting.

Although the sheriff’s inability to work within his budget remains at the center of the debate as to whether he is the right person to be running this facility, he has yet to attend a public meeting.

Ed Smith told the Sauk Valley Telegraph, “Ogle Co. Sheriff Mel Messer has not attended any of the meetings, which is disappointing. If he thinks it is such a good project, he should be here.”

Messer was said to be on vacation in New England according to County Chairman Jerry Daws. He was unable to attend the first town meeting, citing health reasons.

Questioning Messer’s absence, Peters said, “This is probably the biggest thing happening in this county, and he’s on vacation.”

Bonnie Miller, Oregon, asked Chairman Jerry Daws if a contract had been signed between the county and INS. “To this date, I have not seen a totally signed document,” Daws responded, according to the Ogle Co. Life. He went on to explain that INS didn’t want him to release financial figures.

“Who do you work for, us or the INS?” came from the crowd.

Daws continued, “I and the sheriff have signed it, but the INS has not yet signed the contract. The contract simply says if we build a facility that meets INS specifications, that we will get $9.1 million,” quoted the Ogle Co. Life.

The center’s cost is projected to be between $23 and $26 million.

Daws went on to say that he was appointing a committee consisting of two board members and two citizens; William. Fearer, Sr.; Ron Colson; Bill Swanson and Lyle Hopkins. Some citizens in the crowd groaned at the mention of Ron Colson as a “citizen” as he will be an unopposed county board member

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