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County Commissioners & Council Motion to Move Forward with Jail Addition

Jail pod 11-26-19The Marshall County Commissioners and County Council held a joint meeting Tuesday morning to receive information on the proposed addition to the Marshall County Jail.

Commissioner Kevin Overmyer asked County Attorney Jim Clevenger to update the group on the jail overcrowding lawsuits.  As of Tuesday there are now 10 pending inmate lawsuits requesting damages along with the ACLU injunctive relief lawsuit.

Clevenger discussed the steps that the county has taken to try and reduce the inmate population in the jail.   They have approved an agreement with Elkhart County to house sentenced inmates for a $40 a day fee.  Elkhart County has taken inmates from other counties and is now at capacity and unable to take Marshall County inmates.

The Indiana Supreme Court passed Criminal Rule 26 which goes into effect the first of next year.  This will allow some inmates the opportunity to wait for trial at home rather than sit in jail.  Judges can use a risk assessment method to decide whether defendants should be held in jail, participate in another program or simply be allowed to go home on the promise they would return for their next court date.

In Marshall County the judges and prosecutors have reduced sentences and set lower bonds to allow some inmates waiting in jail to bond out.   The county is also working toward adding a fourth court.  While they are progressing through the early process, currently they are looking for a sponsor to carry a bill in support of the fourth court in Marshall County for the 2020 legislative session.  Clevenger said there is some discussion of making the fourth court a drug court.  The final option the county is considering is adding bed space to the jail.

Representatives from RQAW discussed the feasibility study they conducted which showed the average daily population in the jail in 2019 to be 244.   Taking the average daily population into consideration of proper inmate classification the study showed a need for 305 beds.  Thus, the current need is an additional 101 beds.  The study looked at the future needs and predicted the need for up to 355 more beds in 20 years.

RQAW unveiled the schematic design of the new pod which includes 320 more beds.  There are 8 cellblocks with four man cells and 4 dormitory cellblocks with 24 beds.

Estimated cost of the 320 bed addition is $17,176,830 for hard construction costs and $2,625,465 in soft costs for a total cost of $19,802,295.

Todd Samuelson and Heidi Amspaugh from Baker Tilly presented the financing options.  They told the commissioners and council members that general obligation debt limit on the project is $17,447,232.  While the estimated total cost of the jail addition is over $2 million higher, the county does have just over $8 million in the special jail CAGIT that could be put toward the new jail construction to reduce the total debt cost.  They offered several scenarios with a jail project cost of $17 million and the $19.5 million.  They also showed putting $3 million or $5 million toward the construction project to reduce the cost and the impact.

The recommendation of Baker Tilly was to utilize some of the cash balance on hand to reduce the cost of the jail and continue on with a new bond issue that would wrap around the current bond that can be retired as early as August of 2022 but the full term of the bond is February 2027.

When projecting the revenues from the current .25% Special CAGIT income tax currently in place there is adequate revenue to finance the bond payments.  It was noted that there wouldn’t be enough extra to fund the additional operating cost which were estimated to be about $1 million. Their recommendation was to implement a Correctional Facilities Local Income Tax (LIT) in the amount of .10% which was estimated to raise an additional $1 million annually for operational costs.

Council member Jim Masterson calculated that proposed additional Correctional LIT and said on a $1,000 weekly paycheck it would only be $1.00.

Following the presentation council members and the commissioners discussed the information presented and eventually decided to keep the jail additional project moving forward.

RQAW is expected to bring a more detailed cost estimate to the December 16th meeting of the commissioners.

The County Council will consider the bond ordinance for the jail project at their December 9th meeting.

When asked about the timeline it was noted that the bonding process will take 3 to 4 months so bidding the project could happen as early as May 2020 with construction to begin in June.  The build would take about 16 months so occupancy of the new jail pod would be September of 2021.