BOONE COUNTY, Ind. — At the Boone County Jail, officials say there’s so little space and very little time.
“I think everybody agrees that something needs to be done here,” said Sheriff Mike Nielsen.
The jail, which was originally built in the 1990s, was made for about 120 inmates. In present day, Nielsen said the facility has seen as many as 246.
“It’s just with the growth that’s happened in this community, with some of the crime that’s continuing to occur here in Boone County, it’s long overdue to expand this facility,” he said.
Plans to expand the Boone County Justice Center have been in the works for about eight years. Proposed plans include more bed space, an upgraded infirmary and a morgue for the coroner’s office.
However, Nielsen said there is a much bigger emphasis on space and resources for rehabilitation services and programs such as work release, mental health and addiction recovery.
“You’ve got to have the staff, you’ve got to have the facilities to do that. You’ve got to have the counseling rooms,” he said. “It’s a whole different concept than what it is when you’re just warehousing people.”
Currently, the project totals out to $58 million, which rose significantly compared to last year’s price.
“Last year, we were looking at a project that was in the $48-$50 million range,” said County Commissioner Jeff Wolfe.
Wolfe said rising inflation and interest rates are only getting more costly.
“If this interest rate continues to climb, by the end of the year this project could cost an additional $25 to $30 million over the life of the bond,” said Wolfe.
County commissioners are proposing a 0.2% increase to the county’s local income tax to pay for the project. Wolfe said the raise would bring the LIT tax to 1.7%.
Wolfe added that official numbers, which are expected to come out within the next week or so, will better describe the raise’s impact to the average household.
“It should be, for a person making about $75,000 a year, somewhere in the neighborhood of $4-$6 a month,” he said.
The county council has yet to vote on the proposed increase, but a public hearing on Tuesday could change that. Wolfe said it is possible the vote could happen during the hearing, which is set for 8:30 a.m.
Wolfe and Nielsen both said they hope the council decides to support the increase before more delays turn into dollars.
“It’s so important that that tax increase support this so that we can get this done, because it’s about the future of this community and about this county,” said Nielsen.
When asked for comment, County Council President Elise Nieshalla replied with the following statement and column she wrote in a local newspaper:
Again, the public hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.