Hancock County Jail in need of a service building; cost estimated at $2.5 million

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Sheriff Brad Burkhart wants county officials to approve an estimated $2.5 million for a service building to be constructed behind the Hancock County Jail. The service building was originally part of the plans when the new jail was first designed.

Photo-Provided. Proposed service building.

HANCOCK COUNTY — There are currently just over 240 inmates housed in the Hancock County Jail. While the building was designed to house 446 inmates at any one time, much of the remaining unused space is currently being used for storage.

As Hancock County continues to grow at the fastest rate in the state, officials with the jail say it’s only a matter of time before they’ll start to need the other areas of the jail for inmates. That means all the items, including evidence from cases, being stored inside the unused areas of the jail will need to be moved, but to where to move things is the problem.

Hancock County Sheriff Brad Burkhart said now is the time for county officials to approve the funding to allow him to build a service and storage structure behind the jail.

“This was actually part of the original new jail plans,” Burkhart said. “The council members knew this building (service structure) was part of what we needed and wanted to build, but at the time when we were trying to maintain costs as we were building the jail, it didn’t get done.”

Burkhart noted preliminary plans for the service structure, which he said needs to be at least 200 feet by 60 feet, should cost an estimated $2.5 million to construct.

“A building like this has vehicle storage and equipment storage and is a place our overall operations need,” Burkhart said.

Burkhart noted that while the jail is working right now as the place to store things, the jail is not designed for items, but rather inmates and future program use, which continues to grow daily.

In addition to having a safe and secure place for company cars and expensive tactical vehicles to get out of the elements, Burkhart said he needs a place to store large evidence. As an example, a vehicle that was part of a child hit-and-run case in Shirley not too long ago is currently sitting outside the Sheriff’s Department with a tarp over it.

That, Burkhart noted, is not an ideal place to store and secure crucial evidence.

“I need a place where I can put large pieces of evidence, including vehicles,” Burkhart said. “We also need a place where we can unload things when we do a seizure because if we do seize a vehicle for whatever reason, and the suspect gets it back, we need to give it back in the same condition we took it.”

While Sheriff’s Department vehicles go to other places for maintenance, the addition of a large service building will give the department options to have a place to do quick maintenance work when needed. Having a place where they can install a vehicle lift will also give deputies a place to search a vehicle rather than doing so at the side of a busy interstate or on a county road.

“I would really like to get his building done,” Burkhart said. “It was one of those things that was a big part of our original plans and is part of our steps we wanted to get accomplished for the county and the department.”

Burkhart also said that having a large place where work can be done provides a real opportunity to have inmates learn hands-on skills while in jail.

“I may not be around long enough to see this come about, but just like we’re doing in the jail, a piece of our programming could provide a space or a place in the service building where we can do some hands-on learning, to teach a guy or gal how to do some body work, how to change oil or work on brakes,” Burkhart said.

Funding for the service building would more than likely come out of the jail tax fund, Burkhart said, so the financial part shouldn’t be an issue. Approval currently hinges on getting the county officials, both the Hancock County Council and Hancock County Commissioners, together to make the final call.

“The money is essentially already there, and the county leaders they knew this was coming, so we’re hopeful we can get the OK here real soon,” Burkhart said.

Burkhart is close to having full building plans completed and said while the size of the structure might seem smaller than expected, they hope to build the service structure so it can be expanded on either end as the area continues to grow and more space is needed.

“Let’s get this rolling,” Burkhart said. “Having a place to actually store things, where things should be stored is what we need. That way when it’s time to expand inside here with more offices or in the jail to make room for more inmates, we can easily do that.”