Organization hosts forum on jail

Panel will allow voters to hear more about project before election primary

GREENFIELD — The League of Women Voters Hancock County has planned a public forum Monday on the proposed new jail project, giving voters a chance to hear more about the project before May’s primary.

Voters will decide May 8 whether to support an increase in property taxes to pay for the proposed criminal justice complex project, which aims to alleviate overcrowding in the Hancock County Jail.

The League of Women Voters, a local nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government, has assembled a panel to discuss the jail project, estimated to cost about $55 million, before residents head out to vote on a tax hike.

A public question on the ballot will ask residents whether they support an increase in property taxes to pay for the project. At $55 million, the project would increase property taxes by up to 14 cents for every $100 of assessed valuation. For a home valued at $100,000, that would increase property taxes annually by $140. If passed, the increase will be shared by all property owners, regardless of whether they’ve reached property tax caps.

The panel is made up of local and regional stakeholders. The forum begins at 7 p.m. at the Hancock County Public Library, 900 W. McKenzie Road, Greenfield.

Each of the three panelists will be given 15 minutes to talk, and a question-and-answer session will follow.

The event is free to attend and open to the public.

Hancock County Councilwoman Martha Vail will discuss the county’s financing options for the project. Former Hancock Circuit Court Judge Richard Culver will highlight changes to Indiana law that have led to an influx of inmates, and Morton Marcus, an economist, will discuss the impacts the project would have on property taxes and what’s happening in other communities facing similar problems.

Donna Steele, a member of the League of Women Voters, said the organization wanted panel members who were impartial to the project.

Organizers didn’t want to include stakeholders running for office, she said.

And the Hancock County commissioners, who are heading up the project, have been able to discuss the project in public repeatedly, she said.

“We’re trying to set the scene for the public about the economics of the jail,” Steele said. “We thought it would be good to open it up to people who are not directly involved in the process.”

Historically, voter turnout for primary elections is low, the organization said.

Many people do not vote in primaries and often don’t see questions on the ballot until Election Day, giving the voters little chance to understand the full effects of a yes or no vote on the ballot item in question, a post promoting the event states.

The organization wants to help voters make an informed decision May 8, Steele said.

Vail said she hopes to use the time she’s given Monday to answer questions residents might have about the project, and she hopes people leave with a better understanding of why a new criminal justice center is important.

If you go

The League of Women Voters Hancock County will host a public forum on the proposed criminal justice complex project ahead of May’s election. The event is open to the public.

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: The Hancock County Public Library, 900 W. McKenzie Road, Greenfield

Who: The panelists are county councilwoman Martha Vail, former Hancock Circuit Court Judge Richard Culver and economist Morton Marcus

Author photo
Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.