CALDWELL — Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue on Tuesday called the county’s new jail trailers “a stop-gap measure” and “a Band-Aid on the bleeding artery,” as he stood in front of six new temporary jail trailers.

Months behind schedule, Canyon County has finally set up the first round of temporary jail trailers in its jail parking lot to help alleviate jail overcrowding.

Canyon County commissioners approved the lease with Missouri-based All Detainment Solutions in August 2018 for the modified steel truck trailers. The county expects to have the temporary jail running in December, with no date set to move inmates into the new space, which will solely be for female inmates.

Donahue said the rest of the 22 trailers are set to arrive from Missouri every three to four days.

The trailers, with a total of 122 beds, are a $12.5 million investment over the next five to seven years.

Before inmates can be moved over, the trailers need to be wired with electricity and plumbing, set up on their temporary foundations and connected.

“It is a contained unit,” Donahue said on Tuesday. “Once these 28 trailers are put together, it will look like a building. So one way in and one way out, and only fire doors.”

He said the county plans to build a 12-foot fence around the lot containing the trailers, located in the current jail parking lot.

Once inmates are moved out of Pod 3, Donahue said the county will be doing renovations on the units, adding new paint and other upgrades that were not able to be done with the jail over 80% capacity.

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He said he plans to use Pod 3 as overflow units for male inmates.

Though Donahue said Tuesday was “a momentous day,” he affirmed that the trailers are only temporary and barely give the county jail the breathing room it needs. Voters have struck down four county bond measures for funding for a new jail.

“We still need to find a funding source to build a permanent jail,” Donahue said. “The people have spoken loudly, and property owners cannot hold burden of all taxes to build jails and schools. This issue has to go before the state legislators.”

In a meeting earlier this month with Canyon County commissioners and local legislators, commissioners and other county officials asked the legislators to consider a local option sales tax, a voter-approved tax that would allow cities or counties to impose an extra sales tax to fund a specific project. The legislators said they were opposed to the option.

“We trying to give some relief and to hold people accountable,” Donahue said during the Oct. 3 meeting. “But without a new jail we are not, and 700 people a day are sitting outside on pretrial release.”

On Tuesday, Donahue said Canyon County is not alone in the jail overcrowding problem. “Ada County needs 300 beds today, Bonneville County needs beds. … This is not just Canyon County. The state needs to look at this option.”

Following the failure of a jail bond ballot measure in May, the board of commissioners have been meeting with various banks and local officials to try to come up with a permanent solution to jail overcrowding.

The commissioners have considered using sunsetting urban renewal money, a local option sales tax (if approved by the Legislature), a lease structure and impact fees, though they are unsure if impact fees are eligible for jail construction.

“What it comes down to is that we need other options,” Commissioner Tom Dale said in the Oct. 3 meeting with legislators. “People do not want to pay for a jail through property tax.”

Rachel Spacek is the Latino Affairs reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at rspacek@idahopress.com. Follow her on twitter @RachelSpacek.

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