Commissioners: Jail at bank option ‘is dead’July 17, 2019
By CANDY NEAL
Dubois County’s new security center will not be built on the Old National Bank site in downtown Jasper.
“It hasn’t been formally kicked off the list. But at least two of the three commissioners aren’t going to go there,” Dubois County Commissioners President Chad Blessinger said. “So effectively, it’s dead. It’s not going to go there.”
Blessinger and Commissioner Nick Hostetter told The Herald they will not vote for placing the facility at the bank site at Sixth and Mill streets. Commissioner Elmer Brames could not be reached for comment.
A majority of the three commissioners will ultimately have to approve a project and its location.
“I don’t intend to vote for that,” Hostetter said of locating a new security center at the Old National site. “I can’t fathom spending $7 million more to put it there when a) we have some opposition from people that live around there, and b) the site is not very expandable. It would cost us considerably more to expand there.
“I don’t think it’s a viable option.”
The Old National site is one of three options included in the jail study that was mandated by the state. The Indiana Department of Correction has mandated the county address overcrowding issues at the current security center, located at 255 Brucke Strasse in Jasper.
When the commissioners held a hearing about the study in June, there were two options listed.
The Old National option included adding a building on the east side of the site for the jail beds and a parking garage on the west side, renovating the current building for administrative offices and expanding the current community corrections facility. The cost for this option is in the study at an estimated $50.8 million.
Blessinger said a couple members of the justice study committee approached Old National about the property because they thought it could be a good site due to its size and location.
Old National is not on the market to sell the building, company spokeswoman Kathy Schoettlin said. Bank officials were discussing the idea with the county after some members of the jail study committee approached them.
“There was conversation about if our facility would accommodate their needs,” she said, “and then we would find another facility, whether we build or find something already in existence. We were willing to accommodate them, if that was a community need. We were just engaged in conversation with them to see if we could assist them. But we have no intentions to scale back in any way in the Jasper community.”
The other option is to expand on property near the current security center. This $43.1 million option includes remodeling the current facility, adding a building that will increase the number of beds at the jail pod to between 244 and 270 beds, expanding the community corrections facility, adding surface parking and adding a building that would house the courts along with a connector between the courts facility and jail.
Blessinger said a second public hearing was held Monday because more of the financial information was added to the study.
Since the first hearing, the Dubois County Council approved a new correctional and rehabilitation facilities local income tax to help fund the costs for expanding the county’s justice system facilities. It will be a 0.2% increase on the current income tax, which stands at 1%.
A third option was also added to the study. It is considered to be a greenfield site, meaning it is a new facility in a new location. It would include a new jail, expanded community corrections site and space for justice departments, including the courts. The estimated cost for that is $50.1 million.
“It had already been discussed and looked at,” Blessinger said. “But we wanted to formally put it in as an option.”
Building completely new is also estimated to cost $7 million more than expanding on the current site. “If that could be squeezed down some, to be a closer comparison [to the cost for expanding], that might sway me a little bit,” Hostetter said. “But I can’t imagine how they could squeeze $7 million down to, say, $2 million.”
Although the state mandated the jail study, it doesn’t mandate the county use one of the options listed. “We have a wide range of flexibility. We can even do something that’s not in that study, if we chose to,” Blessinger said. “The study gave us some options and explored ideas. But we can do something that is different from what is there. We will use that information as a baseline, as a starting point to what project we end up with.
“I’m not completely sold on any of the designs as they are currently.”
Hostetter and Blessinger said they favor expanding on the current security center site.
“I’ve been partial on building on the existing site since the first day we started in December. But the drawing and design that’s in the study, I’m not completely happy with it as it is currently,” Blessinger said. “But it’s a good starting point. It tells us that the pod will fit in the back. We have existing space up front to put a building, if we want to do that. We can find ways to expand our existing facilities and infrastructure. It told us a lot of information, but it hasn’t been massaged.”
“Unless something drastic changes,” Hostetter said, “my intention is to have it expand on its current site.”
And they for sure don’t want to place the jail at the bank site.
“It’s not going to happen at Old National,” Blessinger said. “While I’m still commissioner and he (Hostetter) is commissioner, it’s not going to happen there.”
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