Jackson and Jennings county governments have entered into an interlocal agreement to construct and operate a work release center in Seymour following approval Wednesday.
The Jackson County Council unanimously voted to enter the agreement. Councilman Michael Davidson was absent.
Jackson County will pay to fund the property acquisition, maintenance, design and construction of the building, according to the agreement.
Jennings County will pay about $75,000 annually toward the project and will have a third of the 152 beds at the facility.
Officials say it will be located on Dupont Drive near the Jackson County Learning Center in Seymour.
Council President Dave Hall said the project could go out for bid later this year and begin operating sometime in 2020. The cost for the building is expected to be around $5.7 million, Hall said.
He said the center will operate from fees paid by inmates and grants.
The original plan was to include Seymour as an entity, but a deal fell through after the city’s redevelopment commission did not submit its approved plan. Hall said the county would not accept what the commission approved during an April 1 emergency meeting because of what it requested.
The commission approved $150,000 in tax increment financing money annually with the stipulation that the city’s share of the local income tax on economic development and public safety not be withheld over the 20-year agreement.
J.J. Reinhart, a commissioner and member of the city council, made the proposal and said he was looking out for the city taxpayers, too.
The commission was asked by the city council to consider the matter after city attorney Rodney Farrow determined the council’s approval was illegal because of double taxation.
The three government entities met several times throughout the last year to discuss an agreement, who would be responsible for different parts of the project and how each would fund their respective shares.
Hall said he had not heard from city officials about the funding despite multiple attempts to contact them. Mayor Craig Luedeman did tell him what the commission approved, but Hall said he didn’t hear back, and the auditor’s office did not receive a proposal.
Farrow said the redevelopment commission may still submit its proposal after reviewing the interlocal agreement.
Hall said it would be a moot point unless the commission’s stipulations changed.
“I was disappointed that the city didn’t support the program financially,” Hall said. “It was a shame they used a good program as a political bargaining chip for the redevelopment commission to control something that’s out of their control.”
House Bill 1263, which was adopted last year, allows county fiscal bodies to adopt ordinances to impose a tax rate for correctional and rehabilitation facilities in their county.
The county has a quarter of a percent of an income tax for public safety that gets split between each municipality.
Under the law, the county can reallocate up to two-tenths of the quarter into a special purpose fund for county use, which the council plans to discuss during its May meeting.
“We’re only shifting half of what we can,” Hall said.
Hall has proposed reallocating one-tenth of the quarter to fund both the work release center and Jackson County Judicial Center, which is in Brownstown. That amounts to about $490,000 annually, Hall said. It would take the council’s approval.
“An official number will be available when Reedy (Financial Group) can give us that,” he said. “If we shifted the entire two-tenths, that would likely be around a million dollars.”
The county asked the city to help fund the Jackson County Judicial Center, but a miscommunication between the two entities led to Seymour not financially backing the project.
When asked if the county could wait on constructing a work release center, Hall said the need is too urgent.
“We have a need right now because we are right at capacity with the jail,” he said.
Hall said constructing a new jail would be much more expensive than a work release center. He said the center also is a benefit because it can help support itself.
“A jail would be 100% the taxpayers’ burden to build it and 100% the taxpayers’ burden to operate it,” he said.
Hall said the jail only holds inmates, and the work release center can have a more positive outcome for those who are able to use it.
“I think it pushes a jail expansion back years,” he said.
Hall said he expects the center to benefit everyone, including Seymour.
“This thing is going to be a winner for the whole county and city, so they still get the benefit of it, but I wish they would have supported it, and I’m glad we have these options to fund it,” he said.