The Webster County Jail on the third floor of the Law Enforcement Center can hold 56 inmates. Often this is not enough.
As a result, Webster County spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year paying other counties to house its inmates. In 2021, the county spent $247,545 paying other counties to house inmates.
This cost prompted Sheriff Luke Fleener and the County Board of Supervisors to commission a study to examine the possibility of building a new jail and law enforcement center.
Since the current and future law enforcement center houses the Fort Dodge Police Department, the city council received a report on this study Monday from the Samuels Group of West Des Moines and Venture Architects of Wisconsin.
In addition to its size, the layout of the prison is considered inefficient and forces prison officers to rely on security cameras to keep tabs on inmates.
The proposed new design would have a command center positioned in the middle of the cells, allowing correctional officers to easily see inside each cell. The proposal plans to house 82 inmates with the possibility of accommodating 139 if there are two in a cell.
Many details need to be ironed out, and the county government is a long way from building a new law enforcement center.
A law enforcement center with a separate wing for inmates needing mental health care would cost around $57 million, the council was told.
A more basic center without the mental health wing would cost around $48 million.
A site for the new center has not been determined, but it seems likely that it would not be downtown. The current law enforcement center is at 702 First Ave. S.
Councilor Dave Flattery said the majority of crime happens in the city center and so he would be concerned about the center relocating.
“I would be concerned about moving it away from the city center,” he said.
Councilor Cameron Nelson asked if moving the LEC would impact police response times.
Police Chief Roger Porter said such a move would not impact response times.
“We do not answer for the LEC”, he said. “We are still on patrol.”