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Bartholomew County income tax increase proposed to help with jail issues

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind. -- After a scary weekend of incidents inside the Bartholomew County Jail, the sheriff is asking the county council for help and now, council members are responding.

Sheriff Matt Myers said on Labor Day, an inmate kicked out a section of his cell, tearing the bottom of the grated door. The inmate then used the metal rods as weapons, throwing them at jail staff and injuring three staff members. Sheriff Myers said last weekend inmates also caused flooding in their cell and damage to the jail when they blocked the bottom of their cell doors and allowed showers and toilets to overflow.

Both Sheriff Myers and Bartholomew County Councilor Laura DeDomenic (R) said the issues are due to overcrowding and the jail being understaffed.

"This incident that happened last weekend took a total of six minutes from the time it started to the time it finished and if we had been able to have additional personnel monitoring the different cell blocks a little bit closer, it could have been prevented," DeDomenic said.

She said Sheriff Myers came to the county council a few weeks before, asking for additional funds for the 2018 budget that would give room to hire five new deputies and two nurses for the jail. DeDomenic said she hoped they would be able to hire those additional staff members before something dangerous happened, like last weekend.

Right now, the county doesn't have the cash to fund additions to employment of structural improvements to the jail. Council is now proposing an income tax increase of .5% that might help with some of the jail issues. That would bring the income tax to .75% with .25% going directly to public safety. DeDomenic said many public safety departments have been struggling with funding thanks to the drug epidemic.

"At this point, we would either have to reduce services and not address any of the safety issues with public safety and the growth issues in the jail and the court system and reduce services, which is not something I’m really supportive of," DeDomenic said. She added, "we kind of need to do something to increase revenue, or else we are faced with reducing services."

A public meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. for Bartholomew County residents to learn more about the proposed income tax increase.