Council, commissioners to discuss jail on Tuesday

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GREENFIELD — Hancock County officials say they’re hoping to reach some sort of understanding next week on the location and cost of a new jail, an issue that’s been at the forefront for county officials in recent years.

The Board of Commissioners and County Council will meet jointly on Tuesday to discuss the years-long building project. Ever since a referendum that would’ve raised property taxes to fund the jail failed in May, the county has bounced back and forth on possible costs and locations for the new facility.

Most recently, the council recommended building the jail on a plot of land dubbed the county farm located along U.S. 40 between 400 East and 500 East, capping the project at $30 million. The county previously looked at two locations in downtown Greenfield and estimated the facility would cost $55 million.

At the commissioners meeting earlier this week, Maj. Brad Burkhart, the chief deputy of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, said the 157-bed jail had 230 inmates and 37 more housed out of the county. That number climbed to a record high on Wednesday, with 246 inmates in the county jail and 46 being housed elsewhere, according to jail officials. A study says the jail’s population will rise to more than 400 people over the next 20 years.

Brad Armstrong, commission president, said after the meeting that he hopes Tuesday’s joint session will push the project’s plans forward. The two boards have disputed the jail’s cost and location for months. The commissioners want the jail built in Greenfield, Armstrong said, and many council members want it at the county farm.

“The bottom line through all this basically is we’re looking for solutions,” Armstrong said.

Council president Bill Bolander said by phone Tuesday that he plans to ask the commissioners about the status of the jail’s design and location. The county hired an Indianapolis-based firm, RQAW, to design the facility. RQAW representatives earlier this month said they need more guidance on what county leaders want included at the facility’s farmland location that would remain within the $30 million cap.

The most recent design plans show a facility consisting of two side-by-side inmate-housing pods, with an option to add more in the future. Armstrong and Commissioner Marc Huber said the board has proposed a plan for the facility that’ll be a long-term solution; now it’s up to the council to fund it, they said.

“We don’t want a Band-Aid fix,” Huber said. “We want something that’ll last 20 to 30 years.”

Bolander said he also wants to review the contractual agreements with RQAW and the county, and will request the commissioners hire an independent construction manager to oversee the project.

“We want an independent guy looking at what’s happening,” he said, “which I think (the commissioners) will balk upon, but I could be wrong.”

The council has had to adjust the estimated price for the project after the referendum failed, and also to fulfill the wishes expressed to them by the city of Greenfield and Mayor Chuck Fewell to not build the jail in town, Bolander said.

“Of course (the commissioners) thought we should go right ahead and build it right away,” Bolander said. “They think we’re dragging our feet, and we really just want to get the best bang for our buck.”

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What: Hancock County joint board of commissioners-council meeting

Where: Courthouse Annex building, 111 American Legion Way, Greenfield

When: 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 24

What: Commissioners and council members will discuss the jail project

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