The bids awarded for construction of the new Starke County Jail east of Knox on State Road 8 total $13.1 million. That cost includes the base bid and two of the key alternates that were contingent on funds being available. The first alternate adds 36 beds to the initial proposal for a total of 145 beds. The second alternate includes the relocation of the county’s E-911 service to the new facility.
The county commissioners stress these construction costs represent a maximum amount, as discussions are ongoing between the project design and engineering firm, county officials and the contractors about ways to further reduce costs. One example cited during the meeting was using a less expensive type of ceiling material that is still adequate to meet the county’s needs.
The public meeting held Monday night regarding the proposed site for the new Starke County Jail facility brought to light a number of community concerns.
Specifically, members of the audience pointed out three main concerns: public safety, property value, and increased traffic. To alleviate these concerns, Commissioner Kathy Norem brought attention to a study performed by the U.S. Department of Justice concerning issues with siting correctional facilities.
The Starke County Jail Committee is currently searching for property for a new jail.
Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem told the committee that the sooner that they find property for the new jail, the better. The city of Knox will not allow the installation of a new radio tower for the jail over 100 feet, so the sooner they find property, the sooner a radio tower that fits the county at the best suitable height can be built.
Thursday’s public information meeting regarding the progress of the Starke County Jail Committee answered a number of questions from the community.
One question asked was whether or not prisoners could be used to clean up roads and do other work for the county, and committee member Dave Pearman said that is one possibility that is being considered. However, Pearman pointed out that prisoners need to be supervised at all times, and they also have to factor in the cost of transportation and the chance of escape.
The first of three public information meetings regarding the construction of a new Starke County jail facility was held yesterday at the Knox Middle School, presenting those present with an idea of the progress of the committee and the findings of the DLZ Corporation and Umbaugh and Associates.
According to the information presented, the previously-mentioned option of doing nothing and maintaining the current facility as-is was found to be insufficient, as the current facility cannot maintain its current population and, with an increasing population trend, the overcrowding situation would only get worse. Additionally, remodeling an existing building to suit the needs of a modern jail is also not cost-sufficient, and would prove financially difficult for the county. Further, state statute prohibits the county from leasing a facility from a private organization, so that option is out as well.
With state corrections facilities running out of room, a summer study committee is looking into the possibility of housing criminals charged with Class D felonies in county jails rather than the Department of Corrections.
Because of this, the Starke County Jail Committee has been encouraged to plan for a facility with 130 beds rather than just 100 to ensure that even if the state does decide to send D-felony offenders back to the county, they won’t have to worry about overcrowding.
The Starke County Jail Committee looked at plans for a renovated or new county jail yesterday afternoon, and one surprising figure presented was that renovation of the current jail would cost more than a new facility.
That’s because $750,000 to $1 million would be needed to house the prisoners for 18 months while the renovation is being completed. Also adding to the cost of renovation would be soft costs, as a renovation project would take longer than new construction.
Members of the Starke County Jail Committee toured a number of jail facilities throughout the state last week. Starke County Council President and Jail Committee member Dave Pearman was just one of the members who went to the Jasper County Jail, and he explained why the members went to that jail.
“One of the key reasons why we were taken to Jasper County Jail is their community, at the time of their jail planning, was about the size of ours. We have about 23,000 in our community and they have about 35,000 today. They have a 120-bed facility, it’s state of the art and it very much fits what we think our model possibly could be if we actually do decide to build a new facility,” said Pearman.
The members of the Starke County Jail Committee are planning jail tours for next week.
Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem said that the members will be visiting the Porter County Jail and the Jasper County Jail to view the size of the facilities and to see if those jails would match the needs of a facility in Starke County.
Lisa A. Lee, partner at Ice Miller LLP, presented a draft timetable for the Starke County Jail project to the jail committee on Friday. The timetable included a list of dates for important steps that must be completed for the project to move forward.
The next committee meeting is scheduled for the afternoon of June 15, when the committee will receive an update from the DLZ Architectural Firm and the Skillman Corporation regarding cost proposals and budgets. Community meetings are expected to be held June 25-30, but that date could be moved sooner if the committee decides to move a month early.
The Starke County Jail Committee recently met with representatives from the DLZ Architectural Firm, Skillman Corporation, Umbaugh and Associates, and Ice Miller Legal Councilors.
The next phase of the committee’s work is the data collection by Paul Downing of DLZ. Downing said after he collects the data, including jail bed needs, he will pass the information along to the architectural team.
The Starke County Jail Committee, that has been selected to address the problems at the aging Starke County Jail, received notice that House Bill 1213 passed on the last day of the session. The approval allows the Starke County Council to increase the County Economic Development Income Tax to finance, construct and equip a jail facility. The County Council is only permitted to raise enough funds to cover the costs of the jail and the additional tax rate cannot increase more than .65%.
The Starke County Jail Committee continues its quest in trying to decide what to do about the Starke County Jail. Starke County Commissioner, Kathy Norem, was asked where the Committee stands on their discussions.
“We have a needs assessment that has been sent out and we should receive the request for proposals from companies to do a needs assessment for us,” she replied. “Once those are completed and the study has been done, then I believe that we will need to bring that to the people and show them what the results of that study were that show us exactly what we should be doing for the jail; whether that be an addition, some sort of renovation, a new facility, and if so, what kind of new facility.”
The third in a series of informational meetings on the Starke County Jail was held at Oregon-Davis High School last night.
Those in attendance heard plans for a bill to be heard in the state legislature that would allow the Starke County Council to adopt an ordinance imposing an additional county economic development income tax rate for the purpose of financing, constructing, acquiring, and equipping a county jail and related buildings and parking facilities. Although this method of funding a project has not been agreed upon by the Jail Committee, if passed by the legislature it would be a funding tool to be used exclusively or in tandem with a property tax levy to fund a new jail.
The second informational meeting held by the Starke County Jail Committee was held last night in North Judson.
Those in attendance heard Todd Samuelson of Umbaugh and Associates talk about the funding of a new jail, using the figure $13.5 million. If property taxes were used to fund the project, the tax implication would be $.12 per $100.00 of net assessed value. The bond issue would be for a maximum of 20 years according to Samuelson. Some members of the committee said they are looking into a combination of property taxes and income taxes if a new jail were built.
The Jail Committee stressed that no decision has been made on whether to build a new jail, or not.
It was pointed out that Starke has the second oldest jail in the state with many problems arising over the past year.
The final information meeting will be tonight at the Oregon-Davis High School at 6:00 p.m.
A sparse crowd attended the first Starke County Jail Committee informational meeting at the Knox Middle School Cafeteria last night.
Sheriff Oscar Cowen addressed the needs at the jail and County Attorney Martin Lucas spoke on the impact a class action lawsuit could have on the project as it works its way through the court system. Starke County Council President David Pearman talked about the five options the committee is discussing.
A series of meetings scheduled by the Starke County Jail Committee begins tomorrow night. The Committee is informing you of their discussions surrounding jail facility options. The Committee is pondering building a new jail facility, rehabbing the current jail or rehabbing an existing building to convert to a jail.
The Starke County Jail Committee will be holding three public meetings to present information on what the Jail Committee has been discussing concerning a jail project.
The first meeting will be on Tuesday, January 17th at 7:00 p.m. at the Knox Middle School Cafeteria. Other meetings will be held on Wednesday, January 18th at 6:00 p.m. at the North Judson-San Pierre High School and on Thursday, January 19th at 6:00 p.m. at the Oregon-Davis High School.