Jim Bobe and Jerry Brocksmith are likely shaking their heads over what's transpired since their time as county commissioners.

Both were good stewards of the county treasury during their time in office, and now county taxpayers are going to asked to pay $32 million to finish what both men originally proposed to do almost 20 years ago with construction of the “new” county jail.

Back then, when the county was facing a federal lawsuit over overcrowding at the jail on North Eighth Street, an early proposal (made, if memory serves, by RQAW), called for a jail with over 400 beds plus all the amenities now being discussed — as well as providing space for the community corrections program to expand.

The whole thing had an estimated cost of around $16-$17 million — about $25 million in today's money.

Not only were Bobe and Brocksmith intrigued by the proposal, but most of those who had been appointed to a “jail committee” tasked with coming up with a plan to deal with overcrowding found merit in it.

But Bobe and Brocksmith were Republicans, and the county council in those days was a hornets nest of Democrats; nothing backed by Republicans was going to win approval of those council members, a couple of whom are still on the council — although elected now as Republicans.

Politics is a funny business sometimes.

The idea of moving community corrections didn't fall between the cracks when a new jail was being discussed; that idea got yanked off the table by Democrats who didn't want the program to fall under even the perceived purview of a GOP sheriff.

Now, to do what should have been done then, taxpayers are going to have to pay a sum which, adjusted for inflation, is about twice the original cost of the new jail.

And it's not as if there weren't discussions back then about possible growth in the inmate population over time, to the extent that even 400 beds might, in a few years, prove to be inadequate.

That was brought up again and again.

So here we are, less than 20 years later, looking at having to spend more money, a lot more money.

We can't rewind the clock — we can't go back to the beginning and hope good sense will, this time, prevail.

But that doesn't mean there isn't a lesson to be learned in all this.

The perils of partisanship come with a cost, a cost which, unfortunately, isn't borne alone by those guilty of its practice but by the honest, hard-working taxpayers who care nothing about whichever side ultimately gets credit for solving a problem.

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