“The delaying is over” Future for new Vigo County Jail discussed in special meeting

(WTHI Photo)
(WTHI Photo)

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – Locked up inside the Vigo County Jail is more than just inmates.

“It’s been three decades of mistake after mistake,” said Sheriff Greg Ewing, “and that’s why I’m so diligent about let’s get it right this time and let’s put this story to bed.”

Sheriff Ewing says the jail holds years worth of problems, from repairs and overcrowding, to housing inmates all over the state and footing a bill worth millions. Because the county has spent so much for housing inmates in other areas, Ewing says it’s the Vigo County taxpayers that are feeling the impact.

“I was at a sheriff’s meeting and my friend, and sheriff down in Knox County, Mike Morris, came up to me and said ‘Hey, I just bought three new Yukons, I want to thank you and the taxpayers of Vigo County’, because it’s our tax money that’s supporting their operations,” Ewing said, “Sheriff Cottom in Sullivan County thanked me for putting a roof on his jail. When we had them housed up in Noble, there was an article in their paper how their sheriff up there was hoping that he could have them there for about six months, and he’d be able to replace his entire video system in their aging jail.”

“It ought to be frustrating to the people that live here that our money is going to do these other things in other counties because we have delayed, and delayed and delayed,” Ewing went on to say, “The delaying is over, and now it’s time for action.”

The conversations of a new jail continued Tuesday night. In a special meeting in City Hall, the Vigo County Council met with other groups to get a closer look at preliminary plans for the jail.

Developers and construction groups such as DLZ and Garmong presented powerpoints projecting an ideal location, design as well as costs for the project. Developers expressed interest in putting a new jail around the Industrial Park area. In total, the project itself comes out to about $66 million.

“We do not have a revenue stream that will fund this right now,” said Councilman Bill Thomas, “Something else has to be implemented.”

Councilman Bill Thomas says there’s still concern regarding where the money will come from to fund the project. He says the council is continuing to look through its options such as a LOIT (local option income tax) and other sources.

“I would like to look at maybe some existing revenues as opposed to that,” he said, “or there’s always the property tax that we might look at to see what’s going to impact the taxpayer in the least. We don’t want to get into their pocketbook more than we have to.”

With a federal lawsuit against the county, Sheriff Ewing feels if something doesn’t happen fast, the county could lose control of the project at the hands of a federal judge.

“If we, as Vigo County, don’t take the reins of this and manage this, then we’re going to lose all control of any say so on how this jail is built because we are under this federal lawsuit,” he said, “So, you could have a federal judge come in and order this jail built. Under that particular scenario, Vigo County and Vigo County’s taxpayers would come out as big losers because the costs would be uncontrollable then. So in essence, what we need to do is it’s time for us to step up and make those difficult decisions.”