A Long Journey Completed

Washington County hosts ribbon cutting for new $24.5M justice center

A ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of the long-awaited $24.5 million Washington County Justice Center commenced Thursday afternoon.
Members of the public, Washington County Board of Supervisors and law enforcement officers were invited to listen to guest speakers and have a chance to tour the facility.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Dethlefs hosted the program, with several officials speaking on the project, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, who served as the keynote speaker.
Dethlefs said the official opening of the justice center was “historic.”
“This is the single-largest investment the county has ever made,” Dethlefs said. “We’re making the necessary investments and fiscal plans and people that will serve and protect the people of this county.”
Capt. Rob Bellamy, jail administrator, gave an overview of the project.
“For years, county officials have discussed the concerns regarding the jail overcrowding in Washington County,” he said. “We are about to realize what nine years of planning, three years of construction and countless hours in pursuit of a dream will offer: a better and safer jail.”
Though Bellamy, who will retire in August, said there were some issues with the project over the years, he was proud of the facility and the people he worked with.
“We survived the pandemic and endured a great deal along the way, and I loved every minute of it,” Bellamy said. “I’m extremely proud of what we have done here.”
Sheriff Mike Robinson recognized several people during his speech, including Weitz Construction, Prochaska and Associates and the Board of Supervisors.
“I felt like we might never achieve this milestone,” Robinson said of the project. “I’m very proud of the end product that we’re able to provide the great citizens of the community.
“Specifically, I have to thank Rob Bellamy. We’ve been through this together for the last nine years. There were times I was down and depressed, and Rob kept me going.”
In an interview with the Pilot-Tribune, Ricketts said the new jail facility is an important addition to the county and to the state of Nebraska.
“I think what it says is the citizens of Washington County are supporting law enforcement, that they understand the need to protect the public safety and that the county leaders here have done a good job communicating how this will actually help save taxpayers’ money in the long run and make the facility more secure,” he said. “Because of the two-way video (inside the cells), they’re going to actually allow the inmates here to have better contact with their families. That’s a step that helps the folks who are incarcerated be able to get re-integrated back into society.”
In closing, County Attorney Scott Vander Schaaf said many people contributed to the justice center project.
“This project was a long journey,” he said. “It involved many people to see it to the end. On this special day, I encourage everyone here to take a tour of this facility. I think that when you do, you’ll be as proud of it as we are. It’s because of this great community, the people of Washington County, that we are able to share this with you.”

Ribbon-cutting Celebration Scheduled for July 8, Open House is July 10

The Washington County Justice Center is nearing completion – come help us celebrate!
On Thursday July 8, 2021 at 3:30 P.M. there will be a “Ribbon Cutting Ceremony” To celebrate the completion of our Justice Center.
On July 10, 2021 Washington County will be hosting an Open House from 10 A.M. to noon, with public tours of the new facility.
Ground breaking began on the project in August of 2019 and the project is slated to be completed on about the 10th of July. The facility consists of a Sheriff’s Office, court room and court offices, refurbished County Attorney offices, and a correctional facility.

We’ve Moved!

A First Look Inside the New Washington County Justice Center

By Cheyenne Alexis features@enterprisepub.com Sep 1, 2020

The new Washington County Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Center is one step closer to completion.

The sheriff’s office will be closed Sept. 3 and 4 for move-in day. The official opening of the entire facility will be in February.

Inside the new sheriff’s office and jail includes several office spaces not currently offered inside the old building, as well as several other additions that will ensure safety and security.

On the main floor, every door is key card accessible, and inside the jail, everything is electronically controlled.

Near the main entrance of the building is a video visitation room, where people can use the video screens or phone to contact inmates remotely.

The remote visitations, Capt. Rob Bellamy said, can also reach outside the facility, so long as visitors have a laptop or computer with camera and internet access. On-site, the visits are free through Combined Public Communications, but elsewhere there will be a fee.

“The inmates never leave their housing units,” Bellamy said. “Every visit has to be scheduled ­— up to seven days or 24 hours out. All the equipment and maintenance involved are all provided by CPC at no cost for the county. It’s also revenue-generated, so we make some money off of it.”

Near the entrance are several office spaces for all employees, which Sheriff Mike Robinson said is one of the most exciting parts because many deputies share small office spaces. These rooms don’t have public access.

Also included are three interview rooms for deputies questioning people and making statements. These rooms have both audio and video recordings.

Robinson said some of his favorite areas are the evidence intake and evidence rooms.

These rooms are connected by a storage unit where in the intake room, deputies will bag and put evidence in a locker that can’t be accessed until they go to the evidence room on the opposite wall.

“This is one of my favorite rooms compared to what we have,” Robinson said. “The old evidence room is in the basement, and the walls would leak water and flood periodically, and we’ve lost evidence because of that.”

Additional rooms on the top floor include a finger-printing room, which has an automated finger identification system; the front desk where visitors can go to for inquiries such as gun permits; a conference room for meetings, budget meetings and multimedia usage; a weapon storage with safes; locker rooms with showers and assigned lockers; and a training room that can potentially be shared with other agencies in the future.

The courtroom is another huge improvement to the current space, Bellamy said.

The new room has separate areas for the stenographer and witnesses, more seating for the public, a separate interview room and a safer access area for the judge to enter the bench.

Along with the bigger area, Bellamy said he’s happy that the inmates now enter the courtroom without ever intermingling with the public.

“It’s a grand room, I believe,” Bellamy said. “Just the separation of the public and the prosecutors and defense attorney, in correlation to the judge — a lot of thought went into this room. It’s going to be much safer and aesthetically pleasing.”

Also included with the courtroom is a jury room, judge’s chambers and a break room for the court staff.

Down at the new jail, there are 18 spaces for maximum security inmates, or inmates with medical conditions or behavioral issues. Inside the entire jail, 120 inmates can be held.

“We’ve been operating in less-than-ideal conditions for a long, long time. This is going to solve a lot of our problems,” Bellamy said.

The jail is completely electronically-accessible, controlled by control room staff.

The front door for the jail has an intercom system and a pedestrian sally port, to provide an extra layer of security in case of emergency situations.

Two of the maximum security rooms are handicap medical segregation rooms, and they have negative air in case an inmate has a contagious disease — this way, the air isn’t shared with the rest of the jail.

“This is beneficial because we’ve had a few people over the years with tuberculosis and things like that,” Bellamy said.

Another unique aspect is inmates can’t see outside their cells, but the control room staff and officers can see inside.

Included in the cells are bathrooms with a shower, toilet and sink; a bed; television; and video visitation screens.

The cells are also wheelchair accessible with wide doors, which was an issue in the past. The doors have a nook for prisoners to receive their food or to be handcuffed in case of an emergency.

Inside the control room, in the middle of the maximum security area, the staff is able to see inside all rooms and has access to all cameras around the facility.

“It means safety and security for the staff — that’s a big thing,” Robinson said, noting that the control room is his favorite area. “If someone even manages to get out, the doors all lock and they can’t get to anyone. They hit one button and every door is locked.”

The justice center will have an official open house in February when the entire facility is complete.

Move is Delayed to September 3 and 4


The Sheriff’s Office will be closed to public access on September 3 and 4 while we move into the new Justice Center including a portion of the new correctional facility. Remodeling of the current sheriff’s office and jail will start as soon as we move into the new Justice Center.

Title inspections and gun permit applications will be available at the entrance to the courthouse.

The construction project is scheduled for completion in February 2021.

Back to Normal Business on June 1

The Washington County Courthouse will resume normal operating procedures to walk-in traffic on June 1. In-person vehicle inspections and firearms purchase certificate applications will also resume to normal walk-in traffic procedures.

Washington County Jail inmate visitation will resume on June 1, as well.


Important Update About Inmate Visitation

The jail will continue to restrict access into the facility until further notice regarding professional visits, inmate activities such as church, AA, NA, fingerprinting, etc.

On June 1, 2020 inmate visitation via the visitation room will resume normal hours and procedures & will be subject to change if situations dictate.

For further information, read Washington County’s latest statement regarding modified business practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Modified Business Practices for Washington County Offices and Buildings

UPDATED May 6, 2020

View the Latest Modified Business Practices Statement

State of Nebraska Direct Health Measures for Three Rivers Health District, set in place to attempt to lower the spread of COVID 19 virus, have led to the modification of business at all of the County buildings in Washington County. The modifications resulted in the closing of Washington County buildings to the public. All County Offices remained open internally to assist the public via phone, US mail, or electronically.

Washington County’s plan will be as follows:

The DHM for Three Rivers Health District is set to relax some restrictions on May 10. These restrictions take in to account the ever changing situation facing the District. In an attempt to continue balancing employee and public safety with the need to conduct ongoing County business the following changes will be made to the County’s current business practices.

All County buildings will remain closed to the public until May 18, 2020.

On May 18, 2020 County Offices may begin taking appointments from the public for person to person interaction. The appointment expectations shall be the same as the Modified Business plan from March 20. All employees will wear a mask when interacting with the Public. Public will be screened at the west door and are asked to have masks when entering the building. Social distancing will be maintained at the same 6-foot standard. Each office will disinfect the areas of public contact in their office between each appointment. No gatherings of more than 10 people. Deliveries will be left at door. This practice will remain in effect until May 31, 2020.

If the Directed Health Measures have not been modified to be more restrictive, then the County buildings will become open to the public on June 1, 2020.

Monday, June 1, 2020, County Offices will not need to set appointments with public. Continued social distancing as directed by changing in Health Directives. Deliveries can return to normal. Maintenance Department will ensure areas are disinfected daily. Plan for continued Health Directives throughout the summer.

Due to the potential relocation of the Sheriff’s office and the continued risk of COVID spread to the jail population, Sheriff’s Office and Jail may have a modified business plan different from that of other County Offices.

This plan is subject to review daily.

Dan Douglas, Director
Washington County Emergency Management

View the April 2, 2020 Business Practices Statement Read the March 20, 2020 Modified Business Practices Statement

What About Inmate Visitation?


New Policies for Obtaining Handgun Permits

Below are instructions on obtaining and submitting firearm purchase certificate applications. You must be a resident of the county and have a valid Nebraska photo ID or driver’s license. If you live in the city limits of Blair, you will be required to obtain the permit through the Blair Police Department.

Download a Handgun Permit Application

Application Submission Instructions:

Sheriff’s Office only issues permits for people residing in the county, outside the city limits of Blair – all City Of Blair residents must apply at the Blair Police Department.

  1. Complete the application, have it notarized, and write your phone number at the top of the form;
  2. Provide a photocopy of your Nebraska Driver’s License/State ID with your current address;
  3. If applicable a photocopy of your permanent resident card;
  4. Mail the completed application, required identification photocopy, and $5.00 fee payable to:

Washington County Sheriff’s Office
Attn. Firearms Permit
444 South 16th St
Blair, NE 68008

Once the Sheriff’s Office receives the application we will conduct the background checks and then send the permit back to you via the U.S. mail.  Allow 3 business days for processing.

Pursuant to Nebraska Statute 69-2403 a firearm purchase certificate is required to purchase, lease, rent, or receive a handgun. The law applies to both retail and private party transactions. The law also prohibits selling, leasing, renting, or transferring a handgun to a person who does not possess a handgun certificate. Individuals possessing a valid Conceal Carry Permit are not required to have a Handgun Purchase Certificate.

Certificate Exceptions

A certificate is not required if:

  • The person acquiring the handgun is a licensed firearms dealer;
  • The handgun is an antique;
  • The person acquiring the handgun is authorized to do so on behalf of a law enforcement agency;
  • The transfer is temporary and the transferee remains within the line of sight of the transferor
  • Within the premises of an established shooting facility; or
  • The transfer is between a person and his or her spouse, sibling, parent, child, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or grandparent.

Documents Required at Time of Application

  • Current Nebraska operator’s license or Nebraska state ID card. The Nebraska license or ID must have your correct legal name. The address on your Nebraska license or ID must be a current residential address in Washington County and match the address on the application. Completed permits will only be mailed to the Washington County residential address on the application. The Sheriff’s Office will not accept applications or issue purchase permits to applicants with only a post office box.
  • If your only form of ID is a Military ID card (must be active duty and temporarily or permanently stationed in Washington County with military orders), you must also provide two forms of proof of Washington County residency (i.e. utility bill, vehicle registration, pay stub, etc.) with your current address.
  • Application fee of $5.
  • Applicants born on a United States military base outside the U.S. must provide their birth certificate.
  • Applicants that are not U.S. citizens must also provide a copy of their citizenship papers, U.S. Passport, or alien resident card.

Age & Residency Requirements

To obtain a handgun certificate from our office you must be at least 21 years old and a current Washington County Resident.


Applications will be denied if the applicant:

  • Fails to answer all questions on the application
  • Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year
  • Is a fugitive from justice
  • Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance
  • Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution
  • Is an alien unlawfully in the United States or an alien admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa
  • Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions
  • Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his or her citizenship
  • Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner
  • Has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence
  • Is under indictment or information (i.e. charges have been filed in court) for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year

Re-Application Upon Expiration

Certificates are valid, statewide, for three years at which time applicants must re-apply for a certificate. All documentation above is required at the time of application regardless of whether a certificate has been issued to applicants in the past.

What to Do When You Receive Your Firearms Purchase Certificate

Upon receipt of your certificate, please inspect the document and ensure that the personal information is correct and that the Sheriff’s signature appears. In the event of any typographical error or omission, please bring the certificate to the Sheriff’s Office within thirty days for any corrections that may be necessary. Notification of any corrections beyond thirty days after issuance shall require a new application.

Sheriff’s office adds defibrillators to patrol vehicles through donations

Washington County sheriff’s deputies will soon have a device in their patrol cars that could save lives at a moment’s notice.

Through donations from the Blair Area Community Foundation (BACF), CF Industries, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 36 and private donors, the sheriff’s office recently purchased 16 automated external defibrillators, also known as AEDs. The portable devices are designed to treat people experiencing sudden cardiac arrests.

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