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SIOUX CITY -- Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew said Tuesday it is time to modernize an outdoor exercise area at the county jail, in order to begin using it again to comply with a state directive.

The exercise area is located in an upper level of the Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center, built in 1987. The jail is periodically inspected by the Iowa Department of Corrections. Drew said the last two inspections involved a discussion on allowing inmates to exercise outdoors.

"We need to be able to provide the inspector with some answers in regards to how we are going to provide inmates with outdoor rec time," Drew told the county board of supervisors Tuesday.

Drew said the exercise area could be renovated but he's held off on doing so since there had been an extended discussion of jail renovations in 2016 and 2017. But the board put those plans on hold in January.

"The outdoor rec area that exists has not been utilized in over 15 years due to the roof condition and the upgrades that are needed to keep that area secure. The sheriff's office is reminding the board that something will need to be planned to get this area ready to once again have inmate use this space," Drew wrote in a memo to the board.

The sheriff said it is too early to know costs for exercise area renovations. The subject could come up in the first months of 2019, as the county supervisors set a 2019-20 fiscal year budget by March 15. Drew said ideally the money could come in summer 2019.

"It would require, I don't think, a whole lot of money," he said.

The supervisors didn't address whether they would support the request. Supervisor Jeremy Taylor asked how often inmates are to get exercise. The answer was 30 minutes, for two days per week.

"Fresh air is a requirement the state jail inspector is requiring," Drew said.

In 2016, the county was embarking down the path of trying to phase in several possible annual jail modernization projects of about $1 million each. Those pieces could have had a combined cost from $7 million to $12.6 million, but the project was dropped after inmate numbers dropped in 2017.

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County and education reporter

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