Voters in Oklahoma County  may be asked next spring to approve taxes that would finance repairs to or replacement of the aging county jail.

Commissioners last week approved a $175,000 contract with two architectural firms to develop plans for renovating and expanding the existing jail.

The firms will also prepare plans for a new jail, but a county committee has already said the proposed $300 million price tag for a new facility is too high.

The U.S. Justice Department released a report in August that criticized the existing jail, which opened in 1991.

District 3 commissioner Ray Vaughn said the county also needs a new juvenile facility twice the size of the current structure.

A jail committee that was established to resolve the issues cited in the federal report said the current facility could be remodeled, with a new annex and juvenile center included, for $200 million. Remodeling of the jail would cost approximately $100 million.

The proposed annex would include medical and mental health wards, a kitchen, laundry, a booking area, and minimum security housing.

The committee recommended that a trust be established to oversee the financing of a new facility if one is built. The trust will be in place before an election is held.

Vaughn said the financing could include a 15-year property tax increase and a permanent 0.5% sales tax for operational costs. Voters rejected a tax hike for a new jail in 2003.

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