Council: Rehab services needed in justice upgradesJuly 23, 2019
By CANDY NEAL
Dubois County Council members had an open conversation Monday about the upcoming work that will be done on the Dubois County Security Center, as well as other justice departments.
The discussion was mostly about various ideas of what the changes could be and the options to fund those changes.
Council President Jerry Hunefeld said the new correctional and rehabilitation facilities local income tax will generate $2.4 million each year. The tax is a 0.2% increase on the current income tax, which stands at 1%.
The county receives about $2.6 million each year in local income tax revenue. “We could use a fraction of that,” Hunefeld said, “as some of that is already committed.”
But that should be used with caution. “We need to be careful of how low we take LIT,” he said. “That is our emergency account.”
Hunefeld said the county also has some cash that has not been budgeted. “How much of it we want to use needs to be figured out,” he said. “We also need to know how much the project will cost. The commissioners have not determined the project yet.”
Hunefeld asked Commissioners President Chad Blessinger, who was at Monday’s meeting, about the Old National site at Mill and Sixth streets not being a contender for a new jail. Blessinger reiterated that while the matter has not officially been voted on, he and Commissioner Nick Hostetter have said they will not approve that site. A majority of the three-member commissioners must approve for something to pass. Blessinger said they received petitions against the idea from local businesses and homeowners living near the area.
Councilwoman Charmian Klem said making the financial determinations also hinges on what projects the corrections tax revenue can be used for and which departments would move to a judicial center, if that is constructed.
Blessinger said his thought is that all justice departments, including the prosecutor’s office and possibly even the county clerk’s office, would move. “It would have to be all or none,” he said. “I would not support just doing the courts.”
Klem wondered if the costs for moving all those departments could be covered by the tax. Those questions will be posed to the project’s financial adviser Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP and bond counsel Bingham Greenebaum Doll, Blessinger said.
If those offices are moved from the courthouse, renovations will need to be done at the courthouse. “That won’t be covered by the new money,” Hunefeld said. “That will have to be from our resources.”
Blessinger brought up the idea of having a jail smaller than what is proposed in the jail study and making a facility or area that focuses on rehabilitation. Hunefeld agreed.
“This has to be a rehabilitation project,” Hunefeld said. “We need to create the space for that, and fund the costs for the people to do those services. That has to be at the top of the list.”
Blessinger said he is working on a proposal to have a director of rehabilitation who would coordinate those services and work with the other affected departments — security center, community corrections and probation. Part of that proposal is looking at how the overall project cost could be reduced so that a director can be hired.
“We want to get that $43 million cost down,” Blessinger said. “[RQAW] gave us an idea for a maximum cost. But there are places for saving money.” The least expensive project suggested by RQAW in the county’s jail study totals $43 million.
Councilman Craig Greulich added that there could be an advisory board for this area, to keep continuity with administering the services.
Sheriff Tom Kleinhelter, who was also at the meeting, said the option of building new should not be completely discarded.
“We could consider the green site (option) for a facility,” he said. “The (current) jail is a great building. We could use that as sentenced facility for programs.”
Also, people need a place where they can go for help after their sentence is complete, he said. A facility could be built behind the current jail building for that.
“This could be a stepping stone where they get clean, and then move back into society,” Kleinhelter said.
He mentioned that he sees a lot of repeat offenders back in the security center. “They get out and are broke, and go back to the same place and same people that got them in trouble,” Kleinhelter said. “We need a place where they can get back on their feet. There is nothing to help them once they get out.”
If a secured rehabilitation center is created, Councilman Mike Kluesner inquired if that would lessen the number of jail beds needed.
Kleinhelter said that depends on how the courts sentence people. Also, if there is a secured rehabilitation center and a jail, more staff would be needed, Kleihelter said.
“Everything costs money,” he said. “But we talk about wanting to help rehabilitate people. So do we want to talk about it, or do something about it?”
Hunefeld agreed with Kleinhelter that the cycle needs to be broken. But how to do that is the unknown. “That’s the challenge,” he said.
“And, how you pay for it,” Blessinger added.
As the jail grows, so do the needs for other associated departments, Councilwoman Becky Beckman said. She named, as some examples, the sheriff’s office, 911 and Court Appointed Special Advocates, known as CASA.
“All those departments will be strapped for money,” she said. “We need to keep some money in reserves to help them. They’re already bare bones.”
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