Courts building no longer part of expansion project

The county plans to move forward with design plans for remodeling and expanding the Dubois County Security Center and Dubois County Community Corrections building. Adding a justice center to the site has been put on hold.

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Design plans for remodeling and expanding the Dubois County Security Center and Dubois County Community Corrections building are still in the works.

But the plan to add a justice center to the site on Brucke Strasse is being postponed for the moment.

“A month before this was even out, I asked them to take it off the table,” County Commissioner Chad Blessinger said Monday evening, “because there was no support behind it from the commissioners, or the council for that matter.”

The commissioners and Dubois County Council had a joint meeting to see updated design plans and to received updated estimated costs for the projects. About 30 people attended the meeting, with most of them sitting or standing in the audience and a few standing outside the room. Several people in the audience were from the businesses around the Square.

Former Dubois Circuit Judge Bill Weikert said the business people around the Square were concerned about the courts being moved from the courthouse, because people and lawyers who come to the courts for different reasons do shop in the surrounding stores. He is also against moving the courts from the courthouse to a justice center.

“Downtown will die,” he said.

Former Commissioner Larry Vollmer also said the courts should stay in the downtown building. “That’s why you call it the courthouse,” he said.

Blessinger thinks it would be in the county’s best interest to eventually have a judicial building near the security and corrections building.

“I think it only makes sense to have all the people who work for the county that do a like job, it makes sense to have them together.”

He is also concerned about safety at the courthouse and the Square, when inmates are brought to court, for inmates and the public. “The public has access to that person to harm them,” Blessinger said. “It is our duty to protect them once we’ve taken them [in custody].”

The design is about 50% complete, architect Eric Weflen of RQAW said. It calls for reconfiguring the space within the existing security center, expanding the community corrections building and connecting a housing pod on the south end of the security center behind community corrections. The design for a justice center was also included, but marked as an alternative project.

The security center would have a housing pod attached to the south end of the current facility. The pod would include an elevated control center from which staff can see into the different day rooms, to which cells would be attached. The pod would also have space for other functions, like a classroom, commissary, a padded room, isolation rooms, an interview room, staff space and storage.

The existing facility would be remodeled to have dormitory-like housing, and space for classes and programming, a medical area, kitchen facilities, intake and booking, detention, and offices.

The number of beds currently being proposed for the security center is 195, which is lower than the original estimate of 250 to 300 beds that was originally proposed last March; currently the center’s bed count is 84. Weflen explained that the bed count took into account data about the security center’s history of overcrowding over the last 30 years and the need to separate inmates based on different classifications, such as by gender, risk level, and for things like holding/booking, disciplinary isolation and protective custody.

Community corrections’ bed count would increase to 168, which is more than the 102 that is at the current center. Dormitories would be on the east side of the building and would be monitored by staff in a centralized, elevated control room. There would be a secured entrance for participants that would be separate from the public entrance. The design also includes space for classrooms, locker rooms, commissary, and offices and work rooms for the staff.

The estimated cost for the two projects, including soft costs, would be $31,371,000.

The design for the justice center is a two-floor facility just west of the security center, closer to Brucke Strasse. A courtroom would be on each floor, space for the probation department and clerk’s office would be on the first floor, and space for the small claims department and prosecutor’s office would be on the second floor. A cost estimate of $9,218,000 was given for that project, but doesn’t include soft costs.

A corridor would link all three facilities.

Several people in the audience said they did not favor moving the courts. “We have lawyers who come from all over the state, and are astounded at what’s going on in our downtown,” business owner Jim Siebert said. “We should be proud of that. Let’s not lose that.”

Weikert asked that the expansion projects be postponed for a year to get more information and data, and to put a moratorium on the tax.

“This would be a good time to put a moratorium on that tax until it’s time to think about using it again,” he said. You have people who aren’t having enough money to provide for themselves. And we’re going to take an additional income tax from them? I don’t think that’s right.”

Council President Jerry Hunefeld said they will take all the comments and information under consideration.

Monday’s presentation, which includes the proposed design and estimated costs, can be found here: DesignPlans.pdf




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