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Champaign Cty Board Agrees to Seek Proposals for Jail Facilities Needs

After weeks of delay, the Champaign County Board has agreed to seek out a needs assessment study for jail facilities.

The plan to bring in a consulting firm has been discussed for weeks. In Tuesday night's 5-hour committee of the whole meeting, the board agreed to an amended schedule for a criminal justice consulting firm to look at jail capacity needs. That firm will decide costs for either remodeling the jail in downtown Urbana, or expanding the satellite facility. The board is expected to award a contract by late July.

A number of amendments to the request for proposals were shot down. A couple came from Democrat Carol Ammons, who says she's still pleased overall.

"This process has long and tedious for the important reasons, right?" she said. "This is a huge undertaking, and I think we need a complete vetting of what we're going to actually do. And this is the beginning of that process."

Ammons did successfully seek out one motion, asking that a person of color from a minority-influenced county board district serve on a planning team that will also include sheriff Dan Walsh, State's Attorney Julia Reitz, and two other board members.

That suggestion didn't sit well with Reitz, who upset those who remained in the audience.

"Those of us who have volunteered to serve on this committee, to be part of this process, have the best interest of the county, and the system as a whole at heart," she said. "I'm absoutely willing to hear from anybody who has an interest, who wants to say something. But I do not think there needs to be a token person of color on the committee."

County Board Democrat and Facilties Committee Chair Tom Betz threatened to empty the room after members of the public snapped back at Reitz. The suggestion passed on a party line vote of 12 to 11, with all the 'yes' votes coming from Democrats. Ammons will ask the board to appoint her to that panel.

She and other members of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice have been critical of local authorities, saying there's a racial disparity of those incarcerated in Champaign County.