Protester Brent Regan smiles at a passing courthouse security guard, while hold a sign protesting a possible county contract to lease private jail space. (Photo: Duane Rasmussen)
A 2nd District judge rejected a proposed agreement between Rocky Mountain Corrections and Kootenai County for additional jail space. In a 21-minute hearing, Judge John Stegner said that the contract could encumber Kootenai County to leasing a 625-bed jail that would be built by Rocky Mountain Corrections for more than one year. State statutes now prevent the county from a lease obligation of beyond a year. The judge ruled that the contract language would allow Rocky Mountain Corrections to sue the county, if it decided to break the lease in subsequent years. Commissioner Dan Green told Huckleberries afterward that he would oppose any lease that had the potential to obligate the county for a lease beyond a year. The bond counsel, funded by Rocky Mountain Corrections, asked the judge for advice re: how to re-write the language of the non-appropriation clause in the contract to be acceptable to him. The judge replied that it wasn't his role to give advice. Commissioner Jai Nelson had filed suit to block the proposed jail contract. Judge Stegner awarded legal fees to Commissioner Nelson and her attorney, John Magnuson. About 40-50 people attended the hearing, and 5-6 protesters demonstrated outside the courthouse against the proposed lease.