Custer County voters will consider for the third time in the Nov. 6 general election whether to approve a multi-million dollar bond issue to pay for improvements at the county courthouse and build a new jail.

Taxpayers are being asked to approve a $4.5 million bond issue at an interest rate of 3.44 percent for 20 years. That makes the total to be repaid $6.5 million when $1.99 million in interest is added to the principal.

Custer County taxpayers would see $48 per $100,000 of taxable assessed valuation added to their annual property tax bill. For a primary residence assessed at $100,000, taxpayers eligible for the Idaho homeowner’s exemption would see a tax increase of half that, or $24 per year.

The total price of the project continues to include $3 million that the county has saved from payments in lieu of taxes received from the federal government. That account had a balance of about $5.7 million on Oct. 1.

To pass, at least two-thirds of county voters must say yes to the question. Voters resoundingly defeated the measure last November and again in May.

The county commissioners and Sheriff Stu Lumpkin say Custer County’s existing 107-year-old jail is too small to house its inmate population and is out of compliance with state and federal standards. County officials also say the courthouse is in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, mainly because it lacks an elevator. It’s only a matter of time before the county is sued to fix these problems, they argue, and meanwhile, the county is paying significant sums every year for deputies to drive prisoners housed in other jails to and from court appearances in Challis. That takes deputies away from patrol duties, potentially compromising public safety, they say.

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