Woodbury County plans to rely on $15.6 million in federal COVID-19 relief to build a $65 million jail complex near Sioux City.
The project has been in the works since 2016, and county voters passed a $50 million dollar bond referendum last year to cover the costs of the new complex. But then the price tag shot up – a result of pandemic-related inflation on building materials.
The supervisors voted unanimously on June 8, 2021, to use federal pandemic relief money on the higher-priced project. “If that wasn’t coming, I don’t know what we would be doing,” said Woodbury County Supervisor Matthew Ung at a June 1, 2021 meeting.
The American Rescue Plan Act is a $1.9 trillion federal aid package passed in March to provide direct relief to Americans affected by the pandemic and to bolster the U.S. economy. Could a county use grants through that plan to build an 110,000-square-foot regional jail project?
The answer, so far, is maybe, according to state leaders and a national expert IowaWatch interviewed for this story. If the answer is no, taxpayers could be on the hook for the $15.6 million.
Dennis Butler, Woodbury County’s finance director, said he was working with Governor Kim Reynolds’ policy advisor, Joel Anderson, to use the funding.