Sitting on top of Gore Hill at the end of the airport runway sits a building that resembles a cardboard box: the Cascade County Adult Detention Center. Unfortunately, this ugly building is the first thing visitors approaching from the south see when coming to Great Falls. Now, the Sheriff’s office wants to expand the jail complex to include a new “evidence facility”.

Where’s the money coming from?

During the campaign for the recently passed public safety mill levy, most of the proponents’ campaign centered on the need to increase salaries for county attorneys and sheriff’s deputies. But that’s not all. It is bad enough that goofy ideas like Slaughter’s plan to have deputies teaching courses on the constitution and putting armed volunteers in local schools may get some of that public money. But we don’t think many people thought we would be paying for a big garage to house the Sheriff’s search and rescue jet boat and a new grant-funded, $700,000 “command vehicle” (Whatever the hell that is).  

Wait, how much are we paying for this?

If you are surprised by this, you are not alone. So was the County Commission. The Electric reported that Undersheriff Scott VanDyken and Public Works Director Les Payne met with the commission to discuss the project on Nov. 21. Commissioner Joe Briggs said the first they saw of the project was in a memo which said it was already going over cost estimates. The proposed ten thousand square foot facility is now estimated to cost almost $2 million. Briggs also said there was no mention of having to build a garage for the vehicle when the commission approved submitting the grant to buy it.  

Just last year, the City of Great Falls bought two incident command vehicles. We have to wonder how much of this kind of hardware we need in Great Falls. The county and city should be able to share use of these vehicles rather than spending all of this money to buy and store these expensive vehicles.  

Is this money well spent?

Right wing politicians like Jesse Slaughter and City Commissioner Rick Tryon want to focus public fear of violent crime to promote pet projects. In both the recently passed Public Safety Mill Levy and the yet-to-be-proposed City Public Safety Levy, the public is on the hook for significant tax increases. Even worse, while law enforcement is stomping around with military-style equipment and weapons, public services which really could reduce crime (like mental health care, crisis intervention programs and adequate housing) get none of this tax-funded largess.