Jail project could include courtroom


A criminal courtroom may be added to the security center/community corrections expansion project.

Dubois County Commissioners President Chad Blessinger told the commissioners Monday morning that Dubois Circuit Judge Nathan Verkamp suggested adjoining the courtroom to the security center.

“It's something we’re looking at,” Blessinger said. “I think that would be a good idea for a couple of reasons.

The courtroom would have enough space to comfortably seat a 12-member jury for trials. “Right now it’s tough to do” at the courtrooms in the Dubois County Courthouse, Blessinger said. “We kind of sardine people in.”

County Attorney Greg Schnarr explained that cases that are a Level 5 felony or higher are the ones that would have a 12-person jury if they go to jury trial; and they would have one or two extra people for alternates.

The other reason Blessinger mentioned is that having the courtroom by the security center would eliminate the need to transport defendants in those high-level trials downtown to the courthouse.

“The judge can take his staff there [to the new courtroom],” he said.

Blessinger has met with Verkamp and Sheriff Tom Kleinhelter about the possibility, and is talking to the project architect and construction manager to see how that could be configured into the project. Blessinger also plans to talk to Superior Court Judge Mark McConnell and the prosecutor’s office to get their opinion on the idea, Blessinger said.

The county has been working on improving and adding on to the Dubois County Security Center and making improvements to the Dubois County Community Corrections building, all of which is estimated to cost about $30 million. Plans for adding a court building near the security and community corrections center was removed from this project.

The bulk of the funding for the project will come from bonds that will be paid off using future revenue that will be collected through the county’s corrections and rehabilitation income tax; that tax was put in place last year. The county will also commit about $5 million to the project cost.

All of this started after the Indiana Department of Correction mandated that the county address overcrowding in the jail; that mandate was issued in 2017. An assessment done that year by the National Institute of Corrections found that several areas of the county justice system could be improved, including having more programs to treat inmates’ substance abuse or mental and emotional problems, and increasing the security center’s staff.

A feasibility study was completed and a plan was created to add more space, including beds, to the security center as well as to the community corrections center.

Construction documents for the overall project are being worked on, Blessinger said. He and Schnarr will also meet with the project bond counsel and financial adviser this week, he said.

The commissioners also:

Set a special meeting to go over a new codified book of the county’s ordinances with AM Legal, the company that compiled the ordinances. That public meeting will be at 9 a.m. Monday in the commissioners/council room at the Dubois County Courthouse Annex, 602 Main St.

Approved the following transfers: $3,000 from the restricted highway MVH fund’s geotextile line to its road signs line, and $5,000 from the sanitation fund’s recycling expense line to refuse disposal line. In the solid waste fund, $10,000 from the gas, oil, & lube line, $6,000 from dumpster sites line and $3,000 from recycling expense line were moved to the fund’s refuse disposal line, a total of $19,000.

Recommended to the Dubois County Council that $150,000 be appropriated to help cover the cost for paving County Road 800 West; the highway department already has $170,000 for the project. Solar Sources will be giving the county approximately $178,000 to help with the cost. But the project’s bill will not be split, Highway Superintendent Steve Berg explained, which is why the additional funding is needed at the moment.

Opened annual bids for materials the county highway department will buy to use throughout 2020, such as pipe, concrete and stone.

Approved a resolution to loan the Dubois County Airport Authority up to $1.5 million and gave Blessinger permission to sign any documents for the loan. The Dubois County Council must also sign off on the resolution; the airport authority approved it and signed documents last week.

Agreed to work with SIRS on applying for grant funding for technology from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

Heard from Dubois County Ambulance Coordinator Suzan Henke that she will be retiring from her position as Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center's ambulance director in July. She said she will serve as the county’s coordinator through the end of 2021, to help train a new coordinator, if that is what the county would want.

Declared as junk a security server that crashed recently and is no longer usable.

Approved the Celestine community using parts of county roads for the community’s Christmas parade, which will be held between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6. The route will use parts of De La Hailandiere Street, Ellsworth Road, Celestine Road North, St. Charles Street and New Orleans Street. State Road 164, which is also included in the parade route, is in under state jurisdiction, so the county cannot give permission for that road.

Agreed to let Santa have his house on the west side of the Dubois County Courthouse property from Monday, Nov. 23, to Wednesday, Dec. 30.

More on DuboisCountyHerald.com