Justice work could go for bids this month

Rendering provided
Expanding the Dubois County Community Corrections Center is part of a justice project the county is seeking to complete. Construction documents should be finalized in the next two weeks, and then the project will be advertised for companies to submit bids for the construction work.


JASPER — County officials could open bids next month for renovating the county security center, adding a jail pod to the center and expanding the community corrections facility.

The construction documents should be finalized in the next two weeks, Dubois County Commissioners President Chad Blessinger said at Monday’s commissioners meeting. Once that is done, the project will be advertised for companies to submit bids for the construction work.

Whether or not a justice center is added to the area as a second project will depend on funding. That will be determined after the commissioners see the actual costs of this first project, Blessinger said.

“We will bid this first project,” he said, “open it and see where we’re at, and then make a determination on the second project.”

Improvements to the 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 in 2018 and a state-mandated feasibility assessment that was completed in 2019 came to similar conclusions.

The commissioners focused on adding to and upgrading the county security center and expanding the community corrections center. They also looked at constructing a judicial center near the security and corrections centers; the center would include courtrooms and space for the other justice offices. 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 the back burner last summer because of financial reasons. But the idea was put back as a possibility in December after Baker Tilly, the financial planners for the expansion project, gave county officials some numbers of how much would be available for the project from bond sales, funding from the county and revenue generated from the corrections and rehabilitation income tax that was put in place in 2019.

Once the project for the jail pod, security center and community corrections center is advertised as being open for bids, companies will have 30 days to submit their proposals. If everything stays on the timeline, the commissioners could be opening bids at their March 15 meeting. They would take about 60 days to review the bids and determine which company wins the contract “or reject them all, if we don’t like any of them,” Blessinger said.

The primary focus is to get bids for the security center, jail pod and community corrections center work. Should it be determined that there is enough funding for a justice building, that project would probably be its own bond issue separate from the security center and community center work.

But the county must be fiscally responsible.

“We don’t want to spend every possible penny we can possibly get. That doesn’t leave money for rehabilitative services, staffing or the other things that we may have a need for,” Blessinger said. “We want to be cautious as we proceed, because the dollars are limited, as they always are.”

A meeting was held last week with representatives of the different county departments that would be affected by the justice project.

“We did a presentation so that we can do some collaboration and see how what happened in one office would affect other people [and offices],” Blessinger said, “how we could share conference rooms, and kind of looked at the scope of the project.”

The group also talked about the public defenders office at that meeting, Blessinger said. “That’s something that continues to be discussed,” he said.

The commissioners also:

Extended the local disaster emergency declaration to March 1.

Heard that more than 400 doses were dispensed at Saturday’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic. As of Monday, those age 65 and older can now sign up for the vaccine at www.ourshot.in.gov or by calling 211.

Heard that meetings will soon be held to work on the countywide trail study.

Appointed Dubois County Councilman Alex Hohl to the Dubois County Community Corrections Board.

Declared various items as surplus, including chars, desktops, printers and cameras.

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