The Starke County Council approved a $25,000 request from the Commissioners that would be used to secure the assistance of Umbaugh and Associates and Ice Miller, LLC in pursuing special legislation that would help in the funding of a jail project once the scope of that project is determined.
The committee selected to study how to correct problems at the jail was brought up to date this week on what would happen if a Federal Court judge was to mandate that a new jail be built. Starke County already has a class action suit against it, and with the condition of the jail it is not out of the realm of possibility that other law suits could be forthcoming in the future.
The committee is exploring all options before deciding on remedies to bring the jail up to standards that will protect the public, jail employees and inmates.
Todd Samuelson, of Umbaugh and Associates, addressed the committee members at their first meeting, and stressed that unless nothing is done to correct the problems at the jail, funding is going to be necessary. The county does not have a savings account, so the funding would have to come through property or income taxes.
After listening to Samuelson, a majority of the committee members voted to pursue the special legislation. The committee’s time line needed to be moved up because a draft bill needs to be sponsored in both the House and Senate. The bill, with a filing deadline of December 12th, would point out the uniqueness of the situation in Starke County pertaining to the jail. It would then be reviewed by the Legislative Services Agency.
The Starke County Jail has been beset by numerous problems over the past 12-18 months including fires, overcrowding, at least one escape, and a lawsuit. It is reported to be the second oldest jail in the state.