GREENFIELD – Issues with the national supply chain and a shortage of labor could lead to a delay in opening Hancock County’s new jail.
A temporary occupancy permit has been issued for the new jail, which is located at the county farm along U.S. 40 between County Roads 400E and 500E, but Sheriff Brad Burkhart said that contrary to what some people might think, that doesn’t mean his department will be able to move in right away. It means the owner of the building can go into the space to start doing their portion of the work.
“There is a lot of that infrastructure that needs to be done,” Burkhart said.
The sheriff said work on the building will now involve the installation of systems like computers, locks and cameras. Some parts that are needed for those systems might not be shipped until late January, complicating the department’s timeline for moving in.
“There is a little bit of a supply chain issue with some items,” Burkhart said.
Around the world, delays in the supply have been caused by industries’ struggles to ramp production back up to pre-COVID pandemic levels. Inflation is also causing problems, with the costs of many goods rising.
There are other preparations that need to be completed before the sheriff’s department is ready to move into the new building. Burkhart will need to conduct additional training with his staff to get them accustomed to the layout of the new building.
He’ll also need to hire new staff members. With a need for additional staff members at the new, larger jail, and two jailers recently leaving to become road deputies, Burkhart needs about nine more staff members. Like many other employers in the county, he said, he’s found the hiring process to be slow.
“We’ve been trying diligently ever since we got the go-ahead to start hiring,” he said.
The sheriff’s department began hiring new jail officers in April, at which point it had 10 vacancies.
The U.S. is in the middle of a labor shortage in which employers large and small have had trouble finding qualified employees; record numbers of Americans are also quitting their jobs. Economists have pointed to a number of reasons for the issue, including remaining concerns about COVID-19 and the low wages in many industries.
For the vacant jail officer positions, candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent; must be at least 21 years of age; and must possess a valid driver’s license. A year of corrections experience is preferred but not required. Candidates also must pass a background check, a drug test and a physical and psychological exam.
People interested in applying may visit https://client.empco.net/register for more information.
Burkhart hopes to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new jail in mid-February. For security reasons, he said, he probably won’t give out an exact date for when inmates will be moved to the new location.
For the city of Greenfield, supply chain and labor shortage problems haven’t been much of an issue so far, though prices for projects have increased. City engineer Jason Koch said bids for recent work on the city’s Franklin Street Trail and Brandywine Trail projects have come in at about 30% higher than engineer’s estimates, which are based on previous projects.
Meanwhile, the city’s construction of a new Animal Management facility is moving ahead without substantial issues.
“The contractor’s having a difficult time procuring some of the material, but they’ve been able to find equal or better materials,” Koch said.
The next major project for the city will be the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant, for which bids are expected to go out in the spring of 2022. The city council has approved issuing bonds up to $42.5 million for construction costs. Koch said it’s too soon to tell how the increased costs of construction could affect that amount.