DAKOTA CITY -- Paperwork and boxes may soon replace inmates at the old Dakota County Jail.

The County Commission next month is scheduled to vote on closing the second-floor jail in the Dakota County Courthouse.

Jail Administrator Terry Kern said the facility is outdated and too expensive to operate.

"It has served its time," he said.

The 44-bed jail is in the eastern part of the courthouse, at North 16th and Broadway streets. It was added in 1976 to handle short-term incarceration, mostly for county prisoners and defendants during court cases.

A modern jail was built off the northwest corner of the courthouse in 2006. County officials kept the older jail to avoid future overcrowding.

The old facility has no cameras, isn't energy efficient and has to be patrolled on foot, Kern said. Mold has been reported, he said, and a front-door lock failed recently; it took a week to find a replacement part.

An annual state inspection last year found mechanical problems with four padlocks. The state Jail Standards Board suggested remote-controlled cell doors be installed. No serious violations were found.

Kern said the jail is safe but could be more secure.

County Commission Chairman Rick Bousquet said Friday that he will ask the board on March 5 to pass a resolution to stop using the 1970s facility.

Four positions would be eliminated, Kern said, saving $200,000 a year. Inmates would be moved to the 2006 jail, which houses males and females, by April 1.

Kern said space is available because the crime rate has dropped and fewer people are in the court system. The county also ended a contract with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services to house inmates there.

Twenty beds in the new facility are used by federal agencies for inmates standing trial at the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Sioux City. The agreement brought in $1.02 million in 2008, about half of the county jail annual operating budget.

South Sioux City police Chief Scot Ford said he and county Sheriff Chris Kleinberg hope to turn the old jail into a storage area for records and evidence.

Kern said the change couldn't come soon enough.

"When it actually closes, there will be a significant reduction in liability," he said. "I expect to sleep much more soundly."

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