The Starke County Council last week approved funds transfers necessary to shore up the jail operating budget through the end of the year.
During the discussion prior to the vote, Sheriff Bill Dulin was asked why the county has a separate jail warden and jail commander.
Dulin says the warden is a requirement of the state therapeutic community program housed at the local facility. He handles all of the correspondence with the state and insurance companies for the Department of Correction inmates locked up in Starke County.
At one time local officials thought they might be able to get a grant to fund that position, but that turned out to not be the case. Councilman Dave Pearman questioned why the county needs both a jail warden and a jail commander and asked if it’s required by law. Dulin invited Pearman to come tour the jail for himself in order to better understand the day-to-day operations of the facility.
County attorney Marty Lucas says state law gives the duty to provide a jail to the commissioners and tasks the sheriff with running it. There’s no mention of how it should be administratively staffed. That explanation raised more questions from Pearman.
“I don’t see enough responsibility there for two bodies, I’m sorry. And if I walk through and visit the jail, it isn’t going to help me come to that conclusion.”
Dulin told the council the funds he needs are to cover “needs” and not “wants” in order to properly run the jail.
Auditor Kay Chaffins says the jail warden position is being paid out of proceeds from the special county tax levied to fund the jail construction and operation, while the jail commander’s salary is coming out of the jail operating budget. Dulin adds the jail commander’s pay was increased in order to attract qualified applicants.
Pearman says every department in the county needs to get leaner in order to survive. Dulin notes the scheduling needs of part-time jail deputies vary from day to day depending on the caseload in court and number of prisoners who need to be transported. He adds the part-time jailers also provide hospital security when needed.
Council President Freddie Baker says the budget for the new jail, which opened last year, was never adequate.
“That jail is understaffed and it’s been underfunded from the utilities to everything because somebody didn’t do their homework.”
Councilman and former Sheriff Bob Sims also defended the need for a separate warden based on the state’s requirements for the therapeutic community.
Baker says the county has little choice but to staff and fund the jail. Dulin says running a properly staffed, well-maintained jail is his priority.
Since their last meeting, the commissioners have also negotiated a lower utility rate with NIPSCO for the new jail. Their entire annual utility budget was used during the first five months of 2016.
The council voted unanimously to approve the fund transfers for the jail. Sims made the motion, and Pearman seconded it.
The following transfers were approved:
Expenses to be covered from the Therapeutic Community program
(Money paid to the county by the state)
Jail Nurse = $70,000
Full-time Jailers = $75,000 (these positions were approved in 2015 but never funded)
Overtime = $5,000
Repair and maintenance = $13,000
Laundry and cleaning = $5,400
Prisoner meals = $67,000
Expenses to be covered from the Jail CEDIT
Cook = $25,000
Part-time jailers = $135,453.61
Additional = $85,000
Arrears = $50,453.61
Utilities (arrears) = $23,613.45
Utilities (additional) = $110,000