The Starke County Community Jail Committee will meet this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. in the County Annex building.
One agenda item is the scheduling of public meetings to inform the public of the options to solve the jail problems. Commissioner Kathy Norem, who is chairing the committee, conceded that specific plans have not been formulated, but the public will be brought up to date on where the committee is at this point in time.
“We will go through and will talk about a timeline of events of at least the three years that I’ve been Commissioner,” said Norem. “We have these jail reports that have consistently referred to overcrowding in the facility, made reference to maintenance items that need to be done and this is what we’ve done over the course of these three years to try and make those improvements. There’s a number of things that we have actually done, but despite that, we’ve had two jail fires, an escape, and a class action lawsuit. We are at a point that we have to take a serious look at our system over there and how we fix it.”
One of the reasons the committee is going to the public now is to gauge the sentiment of the community. Republican State Representative Doug Gutwein, of Francesville, has agreed to carry legislation requesting permission for the county council to be able to adopt a County Economic Development Income Tax. That tax would be for the purpose of financing, constructing, acquiring property and equipping the county jail and related buildings and parking facilities.
Norem stressed that the income tax may not be adopted, but that it needs to be passed by the legislature to even be considered as a financing tool.
“Regardless of it all, anything that we do we have to find financing method,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re going ahead with this special legislation and creating some options for us to consider once the scope of the project is complete.”
Representative Gutwein is wanting a report on public sentiment before introducing the bill in the legislature. The final date to introduce the bill is February 14th.
Signing on to help in passage of the bill are State Representatives Nancy Dembowski and Tom Dermody, plus State Senators Ed Charbonneau and Jim Arnold.