County takes next steps for creating justice center

Dubois County Security Center


Now that the justice study is done, the next steps for creating a county justice center are underway.

At Monday’s meeting, the Dubois County Commissioners agreed to President Chad Blessinger creating two requests for proposals that will be sent out.

One request is for an architect/design firm to create a design for the center. The other will be for a construction manager/owner’s representative, who will be the county’s representative at the construction site each day to monitor the work being done and represent the county’s interests on site.

Commissioner Nick Hostetter said, and the others agreed, that the two should be hired at the same time so that they both can review bid specs together prior to the project going out for bids.

The proposals will ask for a company’s services and the costs for those services.

“So we’re starting to talk money,” Blessinger said Monday evening, “not only who is going to be the most skilled and the best quality [company], but who is going to give us the best price.”

In 2017, the Indiana Department of Correction mandated that the county address ongoing overcrowding issues at the Dubois County Security Center. A state law that went into effect in 2018 requires a feasibility study be done before any new construction or remodeling can be done to a jail facility.

RQAW of Fishers completed that study this year, projecting that the jail facility should have between 244 and 270 beds to keep up with the need for the next 20 years. The study also estimated creating a justice center, which would include the courts and all justice departments, and would cost between $43 million and $50 million.

The study will be used when determining the justice center’s actual design, Blessinger said.

“We’re using that as a platform on which to build the project,” he said. “The study is all the groundwork for the decisions we will make [moving] forward. At the end of the day, we will have many of the same components. They won’t be laid out exactly the same way as they were presented.”

There is no formal acceptance vote needed for the study.

“We just have to have one done and have public hearings on the study,” Blessinger explained.

The commissioners have been visiting other counties to ask questions about how they proceeded in updating their security centers and justice facilities. They don’t believe they need a construction manager and an owner’s representative.

“One role may have a little more duties,” Commissioner Elmer Brames said at Monday’s meeting. “But the roles do seem to overlap.” He favored having the construction manager, he said.

The commissioners want to ensure the jail facility has space for rehabilitation programs. But they realized adding the space does not mean the service programs will be available, especially as leadership changes in the future.

“The reality is that judges don’t have to sentence (offenders) to the program, and sheriffs do not have to implement rehab programs,” Blessinger said. “That’s where I’m stuck as far as rehabilitation.”

But the commissioners will see what the future architect or design firm will create for the county’s needs.

Blessinger is drafting the request for proposals documents to send out to firms. The idea is to give firms about two weeks to submit the RFPs to the county.

Getting to an end product will take a while, Blessinger said. “I’d rather take my time when you’re dealing with this much taxpayer money,” he said. “Building a $200,000 building is a little different than a $40 million complex of buildings.”

The commissioners also:

• Recommended to the Dubois County Council that a new ambulance be purchased this year. Ambulance Director Suzan Henke said a 2007 model, which currently has 243,000 miles on it, needs to be replaced because of the ongoing maintenance costs. Henke will request from the council a $250,000 appropriation to purchase the ambulance. The cost for replacing a 2009 ambulance in the fleet is in the ambulance department’s 2020 budget request.

• Heard an update on the trash violation assessed to Anthony Lemond. Lemond’s property has not been cleaned up, Solid Waste District Director Carla Striegel-Winner and member Randy Boehm said. They tried reaching out to Linda Uppencamp, who is the contact for helping Lemond with the property, but have not gotten an adequate response on the cleanup plans. The commissioners will revisit the matter in a 10 a.m. trash court session during their Aug. 19 meeting.

• Heard from an irate resident about a possible weed ordinance violation along Gun Club Road. The commissioners will look into the matter.

• Heard a suggestion from County Treasurer Kitty Merkley to replace the tax payment drop box on the Courthouse Annex building near Sixth and Jackson streets with a kiosk that people can use to pay their taxes. The commissioners asked her to look further into the cost to the county versus the benefit to the county, as well as a way to still provide a drop box since other things are left in the drop box for other departments.

• Told County Recorder Jackie McPherron to look into the security measures in order to have US Imaging inside the Dubois County Courthouse 24 hours a day. The company will scan deeds and the county’s grantor/grantee books so that those can be available electronically, McPherron explained. Letting the company work 24 hours a day will lessen the cost to the county, she said. The security plan includes making sure a very limited number of US Imaging employees are accessing the building, the employees access only the space in the basement where the records are, all courthouse employees are aware of what’s happening, making sure security cameras are recording 24 hours a day for the days US Imaging is there, and alerting the sheriff’s office so that a deputy will come through for security checks.

• Discussed matters relating to health benefits for county employees, including a potential health clinic for employees through the county’s insurance broker, counseling services, and the benefits and challenges of the county’s sick bank program. The topics will be ongoing discussions. The commissioners especially want to hear from employees concerning the sick bank.

• Opened bids for a road grader. Those bids are being reviewed by the county highway department.

• Approved an interlocal agreement between the highway department and Orange County’s highway department. The two departments will help each other by sharing with each other manpower and equipment.

• Approved road closures for the St. Anthony Fire Department’s annual car show in St. Anthony. From 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Aug. 17, South Street will be closed from east of St. John’s Street to just west of Cross Street. If needed, St. Joseph’s Street will also be closed from near the American Legion building to South Street.

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