Bids sought for corrections, jail improvements

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

The county will open bids for expanding and improving the Dubois County Security Center and Dubois County Community Corrections facility on March 22.

The special meeting to do so, which will be a Dubois County Commissioners meeting, will start at 6 p.m. in the commissioners/council room at the Dubois County Courthouse Annex.

Construction documents for the projects were approved by the commissioners on Thursday. They will start to be distributed to construction companies on Monday, Eric Weflen of engineering company RQAW told the commissioners. A pre-bid meeting for contractors will be held March 2 at the security center, Costruction Manager Mark Shireman said.

Improvements to the security center facilities have been actively worked on since 2017, when the Indiana Department of Correction told county officials to deal with the jail’s overcrowding problems. An assessment done later that year by the National Institute of Corrections found that several areas of the county justice system could be improved, including redesigning the facility and adding beds, having more programs to treat inmates’ substance abuse or mental and emotional problems, expanding and improving community corrections’ facilities and increasing staff. A local committee studying the county’s justice system formed in 2018 and a state-mandated feasibility assessment that was completed in 2019 came to similar conclusions.

The commissioners focused on adding to and upgrading the county security center and expanding the community corrections center. They also looked at constructing a judicial center nearby. That center would include courtrooms and space for other offices involved with the justice system. With that, thought was given to renovating the current county courthouse so that the offices remaining in the building could expand and other county offices could move into the building.

The judicial center idea was put on hold last summer because of financial reasons. But the idea was brought back as a possibility in December after Baker Tilly, the financial planners for the expansion project, gave county officials some numbers of how much would be available for the project from bond sales, funding from the county and revenue generated from the corrections and rehabilitation income tax that was put in place in 2019.

Throughout the process, members of the public have commented and shared their concerns about the size of the project, whether it was needed and if other judicial offices, the courts especially, should move from the courthouse.

As of now, the primary focus is to get bids for the security center, jail pod and community corrections center work. Should county officials determine that that there is a need and enough funding to construct a justice building, that project would likely be its own bond issue separate from the security center and community center work.

To start the process for the sale of bonds, the Board of Directors of the Dubois County, Indiana Building Corporation was also established on Thursday. The board will handle the finances as they pertain to the improvements, including handling the bond issuance and payments. All this is done to help the county get a better bond rate, Rick Hall of bond counsel Barnes and Thornburg explained. The three-member board includes Ken Schnaus as president, Gil Eckerle as vice president and Todd Ofer as secretary/treasurer.

The commissioners also:

Approved creating a part-time intern position for the probation department for the next five years. The money to fund the position will come from a $76,700 grant the department is receiving as part of the $4.4 million Community Leadership Grant the Dubois County Community Foundation was awarded from Lilly Endowment Inc. through the seventh phase of Lilly’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow initiative. The Dubois County Council must approve distributing the money for the position, which will likely be done at its Monday afternoon meeting.

Approved a request from Junie Himsel and the Ireland Historical Society to install a placard on the historic display case that sits in the hall of the Dubois County Courthouse just south of the County Auditor Office’s door. The placard will acknowledge that members of the 20th Century Literary Club petitioned the Dubois County Commissioners on Feb. 5, 1917, to have the cabinet at the courthouse to store historic articles and relics. A small placard now on the cabinet is no longer legible, Himsel said. He will install the 2-by-6-inch placard and the Ireland Historical Society will cover the placard’s cost.

Accepted the donation of 10 Chromebooks for the health department from local companies RE/MAX, F.C. Tucker, Springs Valley Bank and German American Bank. Retired optometrist Dr. Nancy Otte, who now volunteers at the health department, orchestrated getting the donations to help the department with its technology needs as it administers the COVID-19 vaccine, Health Department Administrative Director Shawn Werner explained.

Approved sending local fire departments $1,000 each, which is part of the revenue the county receives for timber sales.

Approved annual service contracts with economic development groups Dubois Strong, for $59,262.89, and Grow Dubois County, for $40,000.

Heard that a committee of the county 911 board is currently taking applications for two dispatchers and for a new director of the department. Current director Jeana Mathies announced that she will retire in May.




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