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Sickler's commitment: a new jail

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With the election behind him, Nathan Sickler had his sights set on the future when he was sworn in as sheriff Friday — a future with more jail beds and less crime.

Sickler spoke about his plans for a new jail shortly after Jackson County Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia swore him in during a morning ceremony. Sickler, who was appointed in January 2017 to replace outgoing Sheriff Corey Falls, won the post handily on Nov. 6 against opponent Bill Froehlich.

County Commissioners Colleen Roberts and Rick Dyer and County Clerk Chris Walker, all of whom won re-election in November, were also sworn in at the ceremony.

“Moving forward, the jail is always kind of going to be that big project, because I feel like that is the most significant need for our county right now as far as how we improve safety and the criminal justice system,” Sickler said. “So we really need to focus on that, and hopefully we’re going to get to an area where we can put something out that’s palatable to the public.”

The county is proposing a 60-cent increase per $1,000 of assessed property value in taxes to pay for a new jail, estimated to cost at least $100 million. Commissioners already have OK’d $6.56 million from the general fund to buy 47 acres of property near the sheriff’s office for the new jail.

A small survey of county residents last year showed most would balk at the county’s original proposal of $1.09 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Sickler’s list of hoped-for improvements includes adding staff and working on efficiency to “maximize the resources” available, Sickler said.

“We’re going to work with ... all the criminal justice partners as far as how we improve things in the interim of not having a new jail,” Sickler said. “Like, how do we make things better, how do we reduce crime and problems?

“We’re full steam ahead,” Sickler added. “We’re going to work really hard. Everyone’s excited.”

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Sheriff Nate Sickler is sworn in Friday at the Jackson County Circuit Court.