A proposed first floor floor plan of the Dearborn County Law Enforcement Center expansion. County Commissioners voted 2-1 Monday to approve the larger $10.4 million project size which could add 144 new beds. County Council, which previously approved $9.3 million for the planned expansion, will decide whether to allocate more money.
Dearborn County/Rosser International, Inc.
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - Dearborn County Commissioners have voted to expand the planned expansion of the Dearborn County Law Enforcement Center.
During a special meeting Monday, commissioners voted 2-1 seek extra funding from county council. Jeff Hughes was the lone “no” vote.
Commissioners Tom Orschell and Shane McHenry support seeking $10.4 million in funding to take the law enforcement center expansion up to 144 new beds, taking the jail’s total availability to 360 beds. Both figures are an increase from an earlier expansion plan calling for 120 new beds costing an estimated $9.3 million.
During Monday’s meeting, County Administrator Terri Randall gave a presentation on how population and crime projections over the next few decades will impact the jail occupancy. According to data from the Dearborn County Sheriff’s Office, the average daily jail population has increased eight percent from 205 inmates in 2005 to 255 inmates in 2010. Projecting 10 percent jail population growth every five years means an estimated average daily headcount of 411 inmates by 2035.
“The recommended project is a 144-bed design that builds out two additional ‘shell’ sections to provide flexibility in adding more beds in the future as needs dictate,” Randall told Eagle 99.3 in an e-mail. “The Commissioners felt this design more appropriately responded to the jail overcrowding issue over the long term by offering enough housing to meet the minimum projections for the next 20 years and offering more flexibility in isolating and classifying offenders (by level of crime, male/female, and other Indiana state correctional requirements) to insure a safe and effective system.”
Randall said the 144-bed design also included permission to prepare an “alternate” to evaluate adding the remaining 64 beds and completing the shell at today’s aggregate cost rather than deferring the expense to an inevitable future date. Once received, the alternate bid price will be presented to Commissioners and County Council for their consideration, which is anticipated in next Spring.
Orschell’s vote for the larger jail expansion came as a surprise to some. During a November 7 discussion on the jail project, Orschell said he would not vote on anything taking the jail project over $9.3 million, as he did not want commissioners-elect Art Little and Kevin Lynch to be saddled with the project for their four-year terms without having a say in it.
Since the November meeting, Lynch reached out to Orschell.
"Kevin Lynch and I had many working sessions. He became very comfortable with the decision," Orschell said Wednesday.
Making Orschell’s decision easier was Lynch himself, who attended the Monday meeting and told commissioners he would support the 144-bed expansion.
As for supporting the increased $10.4 million cost, Orschell said the county has an obligation to go the extra mile on the jail.
"We're putting extra money looking towards future expansion. If we don't do this now, it wouldn't be responsible," he said.
County Council will ultimately decide which version of the project to fund. They’ve already agreed to fund $9.3 million earlier this year. Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, December 11.