Justice center, 911 move under consideration

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

The Dubois County Commissioners talked this week about the idea of having a justice center near the security center and community corrections center.

They also briefly discussed moving the 911 department back to the security center.

Work will likely start next month on expanding and making improvements on the security center and community corrections facility. The bids for that work totaled just over $25 million, which is about $1.3 million less than estimated.

While the commissioners have favorable feelings about a justice center, they are still mindful of the cost.

“I’d like a review of the finances,” Commissioner Elmer Brames said Monday. “We now know what the bids are on the jail and community corrections. Can we afford this?”

The commissioners considered a justice facility before, as they were getting together the plans for improving and expanding the security and community corrections facilities. In their plans, a justice center would include courtrooms and space for other offices involved with the justice system. Along with that, thought was given to renovating the current county courthouse so that the offices remaining in the building could expand and other county offices could move into the building.

The judicial center idea was put on hold for financial reasons. But now that more financial information is available, including the actual costs for security center and community corrections upgrades, the commissioners are considering the justice building again.

Commissioners President Chad Blessinger said he talked to department heads during their quarterly meeting last week and found that many were in favor of having a court building. Many of the comments he received from them talked about the need for space for various offices. They also brought up the idea of having all the justice departments all together in one area.

“That is something that we can and should still consider,” Blessinger said.

Commissioner Nick Hostetter also said they should consider building the facility. “I think it would be a good thing, with our lack of office spaces,” he said. “It would be a good idea to move forward on it.”

Design plans for a justice center are not yet complete. But the work that has been done could give the commissioners a better projection on the cost. They plan to look at that, as well as what funding would be available, including revenue from the corrections and rehabilitation income tax that was put in place in 2019.

Another idea under consideration is moving the 911 department back to the security center. The department used to be at the security center, but joined the county health department at the county’s St. Charles Street building years ago because it needed more space.

Blessinger explained that since the security center will be getting a jail pod that will house inmates, space in the current facility would be available to house 911 as well as future rehabilitative housing.

“It would make additional room for the health department that they sorely need out there,” he said.

Currently, the 911 department is transitioning to a new director. Once that is done, the commissioners plan to talk to the new director, Stuart Wilson, about the idea.

Improvements to the county security center facilities have been actively worked on since 2017, when the Indiana Department of Correction told county officials to deal with the jail’s overcrowding problems. An assessment done later that year by the National Institute of Corrections found that several areas of the county justice system could be improved, including redesigning the facility and adding beds, having more programs to treat inmates’ substance abuse or mental and emotional problems, expanding and improving community corrections’ facilities and increasing staff. A local committee studying the county’s justice system formed in 2018 and a state-mandated feasibility assessment that was completed in 2019 came to similar conclusions.




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com