Fight brewing over St. Clair County Jail tax proposal -

Fight brewing over St. Clair County Jail tax proposal

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( - A group opposed to a proposal to raise the sales tax to fund a renovation of the St. Clair County Jail is accusing the county’s sheriff of intimidating voters into supporting the project.

A referendum on the March 18 ballot would raise the sales tax in the county by a quarter cent to pay for a $37 million expansion and renovation. Sheriff Richard Watson recently released several inmates and said he has had to turn many criminals away because he contends the facility is overcrowded.

Joe Behnken, who heads a group that is opposed to the sales tax hike, said the county is using heavy handed tactics to convince voters to support the measure.

"The reason they're saying that, I assume, is to make us overburdened masses not feel safe," Behnken said.

Watson denies the charge.

“They’re (the voters) not being bullied, they’re being informed,” Watson said.

Voters will decide the proposal's fate March 18.

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