Starke County Commissioners, Council Consider County Projects in Special Meeting

Starke County Commissioners ( L to R ) Kathy Norem, Dan Bridegroom, Jennifer Davis

“Starke County has to have a road map, we can’t pay everything out of the Cummulative Cap fund,” said Starke County Commission President Dan Bridegroom to open this week’s Capital Asset Management work session.

He and Council President, Mark Smith, assembled members of both bodies to consider the preliminary report from the consulting firm hired to identify Starke County’s short and long term needs.

As with every discussion over the past two years, those attending the meeting spent time on the problems with the jail. Even though the report put a price tag on a new jail of $13.5-15 million at least one of the commissioners, Jennifer Davis, made it clear that she was not for building a new structure.

“There is no way any of us in our time on the county commission are we going to build a new jail,” Davis said.

Commission President Dan Bridegroom agreed but asked out loud, “Wouldn’t it have been nice if 10 to 15 years ago we would have approached Marshall and Pulaski counties before they built their new jails, and proposed that we go together on one complex to house prisoners from all three counties?”

Also discussed at great length was the need for security at the Starke County Courthouse, the creation of a work release facility for prisoners, and the inadequacy of the Starke County Prosecutor’s office. Commissioner Kathy Norem praised the Community Corrections program that has been put together in Starke County for holding down the jail population. It was estimated that we would probably have 25-30% more prisoners being housed without this effort. Norem said there were 52 prisoners in jail on Tuesday.

Todd Samuelson of H.J. Umbaugh and Associates in Plymouth presented figures for a debt service levy to fund some of the projects. The calculation assumed a tax rate increase of 2 cents, 3 cents, and 4 cents to pay off money borrowed for the purpose of pursuing some of the projects.