Sales tax vote in August to decide fate of Ray County, Missouri’s deteriorating jail

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HENRIETTA, Mo. — On Aug. 3, residents in Ray County, Missouri will vote on implementing a new half-cent sales tax.

Sheriff Scott Childers said it’s needed to purchase a new jail. He said the current facility, built more than 20 years ago, has fallen into disrepair.

“We’re not up to code on anything in here,” Childers said, walking FOX4 through the jail in Henrietta, Missouri, on Monday.

Childers took over in Ray County seven months ago. He pointed out rusted vents, peeling ceilings, even holes in the walls between cells. He said that not only shows how poor the structure is, but inmates can also easily pass contraband back and forth.

“[Mold mushrooms] came out of the shower today,” Childers said. “That’s how much mold you get in here.”

Childers said there’s also no fire suppression system, no natural light inside, and one cell’s walls were so bad, it had to be closed altogether.

In the attic, Childers said there are more water problems, exposed wiring and only a fence separating an inmate from the outside, should they get up there.

The sheriff said at least four inmates have escaped in the last 12 years. He called that especially concerning when you consider who’s locked up.

The Ray County jail is currently hold a murder suspect. When asked if they can safely house him at the current facility, Childers said no.

“This building is not made to hold an inmate with those type of charges because of the material it’s made of,” he said.

In May, the county agreed to put a half-cent sales tax on the ballot for voters to decide.

Childers is hoping to use the funds to build a new jail closer to Richmond, the county seat, to be more centrally located and make it to calls faster. He also said this building is making taxpayers pay at least three times too much for water.

He figures the new facility would cost $11.5 million and house 100 inmates.

After the new tax runs 30 years, a quarter-cent sales tax would begin to help maintain the new facility. Childers said additional funds could be used to add a deputy and detective to the department.

But not everyone supports the sales tax. Ray County resident George Hack questions how the money would be spent.

“August 3rd, I’m voting no,” Hack said. “And several of my friends and family members will be voting no, too, unless it’s totally understandable.”

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