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Voters disapprove of $12.3 million jail expansion in Big Horn County

HARDIN- Voters in Big Horn County are so far saying no to a ballot measure to fund an expansion for the county jail.

With 1,837 voters in, 59 percent have voted no on the measure while 41 percent have said yes.

Back in the fall, county commissioners and the sheriff’s office together launched a collective effort to educate the public on the measure that would authorize the county to borrow from existing funds and not increase taxes.

Commissioner George Real Bird III said the expansion will provide for 96 beds.

The current jail was built in 1979, but officials said it was outdated and overcrowded.

Undersheriff Michael Fuss previously told MTN News during a media tour day that there is no more room in the jail.

Fuss says the current building suffers from cooling and heating deficiencies.

Big Horn County tried to get voters to support a jail expansion once before in 2016, but it failed.

This time, commissioners asked voters for the authority to borrow $7.3 million and use an existing $5 million in cash the county currently has saved from coal royalty payments.

Some in Big Horn County have questioned why the nearby vacant Two Rivers Detention Center is not being used. Two Rivers is a private prison built as an economic-development tool more than a decade ago, but it struggled with a lack of inmates and closed in 2016.

Real Bird says that facility is too big and too expensive to operate. Two Rivers can house up to 400 inmates.

Andrea Lutz

Andrea Lutz

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